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Paris Summer Sales: Tips for “soldes d’été” success

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The bustling Boulevard Haussmann. Photos by Theadora Brack.
The bustling Boulevard Haussmann. Photos by Theadora Brack.

It’s that most wonderful time of the year for shoppers in Paris, Cheapos! “Les Soldes d’Eté” (the summer sales) kick off Wednesday, June 24! Mark your calendar, get set, but first create a plan of transaction.

Here are some tips for scoring big during this glorious five-week event.

1. Get smart.

I spy. Visit your favorite shops just before the sale. Memorize the layout. Take note of “rack formations.” Also, try on clothing… you’ll avoid the lines later.

2. Befriend the staff.

Throughout the year, my savvy and smartly dressed friend Dominique drops off chocolates for the sales team at her favorite shops. Guess who hears about the bargains first? The French value fidelity. Don’t live in Paris full-time? Send thank-you notes after each visit.

3. Mind the gaps.

What’s missing from your closet? A belted trench coat with a narrow cinched waist in khaki? Striped shirt? Ballet shoes in black patent leather or navy suède? All three are timeless French classics, and quite souvenir-worthy.

"Soldes" on rue des Abbesses. Photos by Theadora Brack.

“Soldes” on rue des Abbesses.

4.  Get your beauty rest…

But set your alarm, because stores open at 8:00 AM.

5. Cents and Sensibility.

Pack a survival kit: water bottle, pre-cut moleskin, candy, gum, eyedrops, Metro tickets, footies (for trying on shoes), maps with target shops circled, and coins for WCs. Also a sturdy bag, because shops give out flimsy plastic sacs.

6. Leader of the Pack.

Véronique on Boulevard Voltaire with bike and sacs of purchases.

Véronique on Boulevard Voltaire with bike and sacs of purchases.

My friend Véronique beats the crowds by scooting around by bike. “I’m able to visit at least twenty shops by 10 AM,” she boasted, while installing her new jumbo-sized basket just in time for the sale. Need a bike? Rent a Vélib’!

7. Avoid the masses.

Hate crowds? Shop weekday mornings or early afternoons.

8. Size matters.

When should you pounce? In France, “smalls” fly out the door first, but “large” and “X-large” stick around a little longer. On the other hand prices drop as the sales progress, so it’s a gamble! Know your European size numbers.

Vintage clothing in the Marais

Vintage clothing in the Marais

10. Retro active.

Vintage shops often reduce prices, too. You’ll find pockets of boutiques scattered through Montmartre (start at La Caverne à Fripes at 25, rue Houdon) and the Marais, where at the Vintage Désir at 32, rue des Rosiers you’ll find a vast collection of striped shirts. For inspiration, see exposition“Les Marins Font La Mode—Sailor Chic in Paris” at the Musée National de la Marine at place du Trocadéro.

11. Don’t forget the obvious.

Discount shops like Sympa (Metro Anvers), and TATI on Boulevard Rochechouart (Metro Barbès-Rochechouart) take their already bargain basement prices to new lows. Make a pilgrimage to TATI, where Jules Ouaki introduced “discount shopping” (self-service and towering baskets of merchandise) to Paris in 1948.

12. Keep your cool.

A window display a "Loft Design By" store.

A “Loft Design By” window.

Pick a handful of boutiques and one or two shopping districts, or you’ll end up overwhelmed before the get-go. For instance, I focus on the Spanish marque Zara, which slashes prices like almost no other store (I once scored almost 400 euros-worth for under 50 euros!).

You’ll find clusters in busy shopping districts throughout the city. Boulevard Haussmann, for instance, has five Zara’s in a six-block radius. Two are inside Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, and one even has a view of the Opéra! Divine, yes, but their proximity also saves you time. (By the way, rumor has it that a Cheapo editor once assembled a very stylish–and skinny–suit by Zara-hopping along rue de Rivoli. Très, très bien!)

Borrowing from Elsa Schiaparelli, “Buy only the best or the cheapest!”

Tell us: Have you scored at the soldes? Tell us about it!

About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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6 Responses to “Paris Summer Sales: Tips for “soldes d’été” success”

Martin L. says:

You did it again! Thanks for the tips–I thought the sales didn’t start till mid-July, so I would have missed the first and probably best days of them. Thanks for sharing your French friends with us, too–the picture was pretty tiny on my screen but your friend Veronique looks super cute (as well as super chic) with that vintage bike. Its nice when you include people you know, so I hope you’ll keep doing that. Great stuff!

Sandy Langley says:

I loved your tip 2!

Bonnie says:

Fantastic! Thanks for the very, very useful tips!

msera says:

when does this year 2010 summer sales start ? 23June or 30 June ?

sumarie says:

When does paris summer sale 2011 starts??

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