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Les Soldes thru the eyes of an American

Meanwhile With Madeleine…

By Madeleine Fuselier

Hi there! I am a life-long Orangeite who is currently living in Paris. I am spending this year teaching English, improving my French, and exploring France (and some of its neighboring countries) before heading to college next fall. Keep reading to find out what’s been going on “Meanwhile With Madeleine.” Thanks for allowing me to share my adventures with you!

Walking through the streets of Paris right now, it’s impossible to miss the eye-catching displays for “les soldes” that fill nearly every shop window. It’s officially sale season!

Les soldes are France’s nationwide biannual sales. They originated in the 1800’s, as clothing retailers were making the move towards mass production and increasingly found themselves with excess stock at the end of each season. Simon Mannoury, founder of one of Paris’ first department stores, decided he would make room for the next season’s collection by selling the previous season’s items at rock bottom prices. This practice quickly caught on among Paris’ other major department stores, and thus, les soldes were born. Today, les soldes have become a national tradition are highly anticipated events. People from all over the world flock to France (and Paris in particular) to take advantage of the great deals.

Having never heard of les soldes before moving here, I was surprised to learn that they are strictly regulated by the French government. Every year, there are “les soldes d’hiver” (the winter sales) and “les soldes d’été” (the summer sales). Each sale period lasts for six weeks, and they are the only times of the year when stores are allowed to sell items below cost. Both the original price and the final discounted price must be clearly displayed for each sale item, and stores must be able to prove that their discounted items were at some point sold for the original price shown.

In the past, shops were allowed to have additional “soldes flottants” (floating sales) at other times during the year, as long as they did not exceed two weeks in total. However, starting in 2014, les soldes were extended from five to six weeks each and the floating sales were officially outlawed.

This year, les soldes d’hiver will be going on until February 21st. The first week of les soldes is when stores see the biggest crowds, as shoppers swoop in to buy up their favorite items before they go out of stock. However, I am hoping to find some last minute deals, as prices continually fall as les soldes go on. Wish me luck!