It’s shocking for Americans, but in France the dates when stores can have a big sale are regulated by law. The annual Winter Sales ‘Soldes d’Hiver’ and Summer Sales ‘Soldes d’Ete’ are the only two times a year when French shops are legally allowed to sell items for less than cost and use the word ‘Sale’ or ‘Soldes’ in their windows and ads.
It’s a grand French tradition, a bit like a muted version of the ‘Black Friday’ frenzy in the US, or like a country-wide Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale. Expect big markdowns as the shops try to get the current season’s stock out the door. The first day can be a real zoo as everyone races to snap up the best stuff, but pace yourself as the markdowns (demarques) get deeper as the weeks go on…
The dates vary from year to year and from region to region, but here on the Riviera the 2017 Winter Sales are January 11-February 21, and the 2017 Summer Sales are July 12-August 22.
If you want to get a jump on the deals, hop over the border in the Liguria region of Italy, to Ventimiglia or Sanremo, where the sales (‘saldi‘) start few days earlier and always go a couple of weeks longer.
France is just now loosening up laws that made it illegal for stores to open on Sundays (the sacred family day in France), so you’ll now find the big department stores like Galeries Lafayette, H&M and Zara, and shopping centers like Nice Etoile, Cap3000 and the Polygon Riviera open 7 days a week during the sales period, which is great because the French have not really embraced the Sunday shopping thing, so you’ll have all the sales but without the crowds!
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Related Pages: more tips on How to Shop Like a Local