Shoppers at the ready! It's once again time to take part in the best sport the French ever invented: Les Soldes. Per French law, retail stores are only allowed to run public sales a couple of times a year. This year, the first such sale - during which consumers can expect to see discounts as high as 50%, 60% and eventually 70% or more - begins on January 7th and promises to be just a crazy as ever. The slumping economy might drive sellers to lower prices even further, and penny-pinching buyers might view the rare sales as a chance to get while the getting's good. Either way, if you thought you'd take a leisurely shopping trip to Paris this month, think again. "Leisure" and "Les Soldes" are mutually exclusive ideas.
A fan of budget-minded shopping myself, I had the pleasure of partaking in France's sale madness last June. I was living in Paris at the time and reeling from the worst dollar to euro exchange rate in history. Discounts were just what the doctor ordered. And while I didn't see any of the drama I had been warned about, (women fighting over designer bags, stampede-like running through the Galleries Lafayette) shopping during les soldes was no small undertaking. The crowds were massive, the clearance bins were endless, and after every excursion I found myself in dire need of replenishing nourishment. Crêpes au nutella usually did the trick.
If you're in Paris or heading there soon, you'll want to read this article. The author gives helpful tips for navigating (surviving?) the upcoming French sales. My advice? Don't let the crowds scare you away. Participating in Les Soldes can be exhausting, but the deals are definitely worth it. And besides, the twice-a-year event is very French. Just think of it as a valuable cultural experience and you'll be fine.