January 25, 2010
It’s that magical time of year… when shopping wishes come true and full-blown retail miracles can happen. Suddenly, the items we’ve been coveting throughout the fall and early winter are suddenly affordable… or at least, more affordable. That’s right: France’s biannual sales (“les soldes”) are here, and just about everything—from clothes and handbags to electronics and home furnishings—are repeatedly marked down until they are so cheap that we are practically forced to buy them. Typically, the première démarque sees prices cut by 20-50%, with the deuxième démarque resulting in prices up to 70% off. It’s like a city-wide “Everything must go!” policy… and by everything, we mean literally everything. This government mandated clear-out happens twice a year, and for avid shoppers, there is absolutely no better time to be in Paris (with your credit card at the ready).
Little Brown Pen, fr.modefix.com
But les soldes are not for the faint of heart. If you’re headed for the big department stores (Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, Le Bon Marché), prepare to brave crowds of strategic shoppers who are ready to fight tooth-and-nail to snag the best merchandise before it’s gone. Towards the end of the day during les soldes, these large stores tend to look more like ransacked warehouses than elegant shopping emporiums—with sweaters strewn about, piles of shoes stacked in corners, and wild-eyed shoppers sprinting from rack to rack to score overlooked gems before stores close their doors for the night. Smaller boutiques have a slightly less chaotic feel, but the end goal is the same: find the best stuff at the lowest prices…right now.
But the reward is well worth the struggle. I made the most unexpectedly exhilarating purchase of my life during last year’s soldes. I don’t even know how I ended up in the Chloé section of Printemps (fate I suppose), but there I was… and suddenly, I saw the coat, hanging towards the back of the section like a shining beacon of elegance—awesome in the truest sense of the word. Suddenly I was looking at it, then touching it, then trying it on… at that point, I think I blacked out. A few minutes later, I was out on the street, hyperventilating with shock (or was it poverty?), having made the most major purchase of my life. In my defense, it was 50% off, and to this day, I get giddy every time I put it on. It reminds me of Paris, which inevitably makes me happy. And that’s what les soldes are all about: impulse… and no regrets.
Plus, we all know the economy needs stimulating. So have an espresso, take a deep breath… and jump in. (This year’s soldes last through February 10).
Written by Tory Hoen
After attending Brown University and spending two years in New York, Tory bought a one-way ticket to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a writer (and of drinking wine at lunch). During her time in the City of Light, she chronicled the euphoric highs and the laughable lows of ex-pat life on her blog, A Moveable Beast. Though she's now based in New York, she travels frequently to Montreal and Brazil, and she'll use just about any excuse to jet to Paris ("I ran out of fleur de sel"). A regular contributor to Hip Paris, Tory also writes for New York Magazine, Time Out New York, and she is a co-author of Gradspot.com's Guide To Life After College.
Website: Tory Hoen