Saturday, February 7, 2009
Ready, Set...Soldes !
Les Grandes Soldes in France are a big event. Sales are nationally regulated, occur twice per year, and last about a month. The January sales started on the 10th and will end February 10th. We caught the tail-end of the July soldes while in Paris. If you’re coming to France outside of the Soldes periods, don’t worry. Many stores get around the regulated sales by having “promotions” or “fin de series” markdowns. The information I gathered about Les Soldes is from asking my friends, reading the newspaper and watching TV. On the eve of Les Grandes Soldes I caught a panel discussion on TV on the topic. They discussed the merits and drawbacks of the countrywide markdowns. Issues raised, including questions posed by consumers, were: Does it promote more consumerism and blind consumption? Is this system better for competition and consumers than that in the US, where sales occur at the whim of the store? If a store can start out a sale with a 75% markdown, why did they charge so much in the first place? Can’t stores just price goods competetively in the first place and then the soldes don’t have to take place? The newspaper article had interviews with Average Persons on the street: Some wait for the soldes to snap up an article they’ve been eyeing all season but didn’t want to pay regular price; Teens who go out with their friends for a day of shopping and looking around; Those who wait til the bitter end, taking their chances that by the 3rd week and the 3rd markdown there will be something decent left. It seems these big sales are government regulated so that it is fair for all involved--the stores mark down at the same time, the consumers know when it is happening. I asked my friends if stores were required to mark down (that sounds like communism, doesn’t it?) and they said No, a store can keep their stuff at regular price, but shoppers are likely to pass them by.
My information was also gathered first hand: I shopped the soldes. In July I was so overwhelmed by the choices of stores and goods in Paris that that we really didn’t take advantage. Irie got some much needed shoes which lessened some of her Paris complaining. I found some unusual red shoes and still can’t decide if I like to wear them with socks. Rick found some shoes, jeans and green Benetton pants that were 10€! He has since really changed his look--he left the Birkenstocks at home and I haven’t seen any Levis since our boat trip. He wears the trim European look very well.
I didn’t really anticipate much for the January sales, considering we spent freely on exotica in Morocco. Irie was limiting her clothing choices to one pair of cords so we headed to Monoprix for some kid’s clothes. We came away with some pants, a beret and some ski gloves. I also knew that Rick was planning on buying ski clothing and a new bike during the sales. I still couldn't help myself and surprised Rick with a soft cachemire sweater he had spotted but didn’t want to pay full price for. I thought that would be it, but during the first week into the soldes I was invited on a girls’ roadtrip to Nice. In my exuberance I forgot the camera. My friend Katell was interested in finding reasonably priced items for some things she needed for work. Nathalie hadn’t been to Nice in years and was happy to look around. I, of course, already knew my favorite boutiques and was chomping at the bit to go back and see what tempting items might be marked down. I found some divine hair treatment at L’Occitaine and Katell worked it so we all got a free hand cream with our purchases. My favorite shoe store no longer had the grey boots I was eyeing, probably for the best! The Italian lady who has the shirt shop (I splurged on one with Athena) and calls all her customers “Princesse” did not mark down the way cute jacket I’ve been wanting. I again refrained from paying 240€ for it. My favorite pottery shop, Faïence de Moustiers, had NOTHING on sale. I was getting pretty discouraged but I still had Custo. This is a store Athena helped me discover--they have very unique things. Yahoo! New raincoat! (I later found matching hat and gloves on sale in Fréjus). It was a long day, weather wasn’t great, I had a blister on my toe, but I scored a Custo raincoat at 40% off. Nath liked that store too, she left with 2 new shirts that give a shot of brightness to her wardrobe.
By the end of the second markdown I was invited back to Nice on another girls’ roadtrip, this time with Nath and her two teenage daughters. I was warned this was mainly for the girls. I wasn’t sure what they would be looking for but imagined we’d be going to our equivalent of DEB. The quality was a smidge better, but you get the idea. We also spent some time in righteous skateboard shops and gazed in the window of the piercing parlor. This time I brought our (new) camera and got some shots of girls on a mission. I found the grey boots I had been looking for but they weren’t on sale, so I passed again. But I then dropped some cash on some sweet Puma tennies that were not on sale. I managed to find a cute little top at one of the teen stores (on sale) and am giving myself a little push out of my fashion rut of plain turtlenecks and Tshirts.
By this time, with only a few days to go, we are down to the braderie (clearance), which is mostly junk. The other day in Toulon I checked out the last of the sales at Galeries Lafayette and while I didn’t find any bargains I did see the new spring line of another favorite brand, Desigual, coming out. Oh no!.....