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Begin the Battle for the Bargains

“Les Soldes d’Hiver” began today at 8 a.m. Uh oh…I’m an hour too late to get the best deals!

The dates of the semi-annual sales are fixed at the level of the “préfets des départements” after consulting with the professional organizations and consumer associations. They last a maximum of six weeks each during two periods a year, summer and winter. Millions of people wait with credit cards in hand to hit the sales the moment they begin — this winter continuing through February 17th.

Normally, I avoid them like the plague, this massive frenzy every winter and summer, but a friend is traveling here from Italy just to take advantage of them (and visit with, too, of course).

If you’re not in Paris, the dates may differ. Consult the official chart of sale periods at
http://www.finances.gouv.fr/DGCCRF/02_actualite/soldes_hiver07.htm
The government proclaims that by virtue of Articles L. 310-1 à L. 310-7 of the code of commerce, Decree n° 96-1097 of December 16, 1996, for the application of title III, first chapter, of the law number 96-603 of July 5, 1996, relative to clearance and liquidation sales in stores and factories. The law is meant to provide an advantage to both the merchants and consumers.

It is forbidden to use the word “solde(s)” outside of the designated two sales periods each year, each never lasting more than six weeks. These limitations guarantee the reductions to be “legal,” thereby protecting the consumer from promotional “fraud.” Articles reduced for sale must be clearly marked and visible from those not on special promotion, to comply with “truth in advertising” laws.

An exception to the rule is in the case of liquidations, which fall under a different set of guidelines and is highly regulated. Advertising and publicity must include the dates, a description of the products, the percentage of reduction and the duration of the liquidation period. In the store or place where the sale is held, each product must be clearly labeled with the original price and the sale price or price reference. Merchants not complying correctly with the laws may find themselves fined up to 15,000 euros.

The system for scheduling the sale periods by law is a foreign idea for we Americans who have a very different view of free enterprise than the French. We believe in the simple theoretical framework of supply and demand…”a balance between product availability at each price (supply) and the desires of those with purchasing power at each price (demand.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/)

This is where the French idea of “égalité” in all it’s glory, riles me. No matter how long I live here, I can’t help but just see it as absolutely chaotic with no advantage at all for neither merchant nor consumer. As a consumer, I find it unappealing to go into battle over a savings on last season’s skirt and as a merchant, I’d be frustrated that my only opportunity to boost sales is when I can’t get an appropriate mark-up!

But guess what? I need a new winter coat, so you guessed right. I waited for the sales (or the “battle”) to begin!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. A small but congenial group met yesterday for Parler Paris Après Midi at La Pierre du Marais. Read all about it by visiting /parlerparis/apresmidi.html and plan on coming to our next one on February 13th.

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