Sunday, January 16, 2011
This is what's going on in Paris at the moment, the fall session of the twice yearly official sale period. Yes, for those of you who have lived in the free-for-all American consumer economy, where the merchant gets to decide whether and when to have a sale, it's different in France. Here the government decides, and woe betide any merchant who doesn't go along. At least, until recently.
Twice a year, in January and in June, all of France goes on sale. This is known as "les soldes" and traditionally everyone goes rushing out to the stores to take advantage of the 30%-70% discounts on last season's merchandise. In past years it was possible to have "promotions" or sales in advance of remodeling, or various other workarounds, but those were relatively few. Since the economic downturn the government appears, to me, to have turned a relatively blind eye to the discounts being offered during the year, outside of the official soldes periods.
In any case, windows in even the toniest stores have signs indicating that inside one will find that pricey sweater, flat-screen TV or shiny pair of boots at a price you're willing to pay, and that if you have the sharp elbows and good nose for a bargain necessary to fight the crowds, you too can score. And if you have a gambler's instincts, waiting a while will get you an even lower price, since the discounts get deeper as the soldes get shorter.
As for us, we're packed and ready to leave and have no more room for even the best bargain...well...if it's really good maybe we can wear it on the plane.