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Paris sales made easy

Art stalls, Place du Tertre, Montmartre
Image courtesy: Jean-Bernard Carillet

Every January, sales open up across Paris making it the perfect time for you to pick up that dress you always thought was too pricey! Shopping in the city is not as elegant or dignified as at other times of year. But who cares about rifling through troughs of cut-price garments in one of the most chic places on earth when you can fly home with a dream Chanel frock or Zadig & Voltaire knit for a fraction of the regular price?

Sales in Paris start 11 January and end romantically on 14 February.  No need to break out in a cold sweat at the thought of the best bargains being snapped up. Smart bargain-hunters wait until February when prices are slashed. There, you have been informed!

For the in-your-face Paris sales experience, go to Galeries Lafayette (40 bd Haussmann, 9e). Queues form outside well before 8am when the famous department store opens – and then there is almost a stampede. For women’s fashion, skip the main entrance and use the Porte Auber side entrance – it is the closest to the escalator leading up to the 1st floor. Le Printemps (64 bd Haussmann, 9e) and Le Bon Marché (24 rue de Sèvres, 7e) across the Seine are other big addresses.

No matter what people tell you, there is absolutely no need to camp out before sunrise. Department stores indulge in ouvertures exceptionelles (exceptional opening hours) the first few days of the sales – 8am to 9pm or 10pm the first day, then from 9.30am. Smaller boutiques stick to regular hours, opening at a modest 10am.

Clothes shops generally organise their stock by size. Find out  your dress size in France beforehand and if you’re 40 or above, gloat in the fact that, given most Parisian femmes fatales slip into a petite 36 or 38, you’ll have racks and racks of garments to sift through. Sale garments are colour-coded to reflect discounts of 20% to 50%. Bring a calculator and know your colours – shops don’t use the same ones.

Exchanging a sales purchase or getting a refund is impossible. Pas d’échanges ou reimboursements. No exchanges or refunds. Understood?

This article was originally written by Nicola Williams and first appeared on in January 2012. It was refreshed in September 2012. To know more, see Lonely Planet India’s France travel guide.