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70% off as winter sales start

Two out of three will be heading for soldes bargains - but the same number will be heading online

WINTER sales started this morning with shops opening their doors at 8.00 and shoppers hoping to catch deals offering up to 70% off.

Polls have said two out of three people will be taking advantage of cheaper prices – but, in a major change in tradition, the same number will also head online for bargains.

Trade Minister Sylvia Pinel also changed tradition for the official launch; steering clear of the traditional grands magasins on the Boulevard Haussmann in Paris and heading, instead, for the new giant So Ouest shopping mall in Levallois-Perret suburb.

Lasting for five weeks until February 12, the sales are the biggest trading period of the year for many shops and this year shoppers will be spending around €234 each, with the under-24s and those earning less than €1,500 spending less.

The No1 target of bargain-hunters is clothing – with 19% of all clothing purchases for the year - followed by shoes and cut-price hi-tech electronic items.

Some shops are already posting price cuts of 70% in a bid to pull in trade as the legally restricted sales period has been largely sidestepped by many who have been hosting ventes privées - private sales for store card customers or online for registered participants.

The sales are the only time when shops can legally sell at a loss as they bid to clear their shelves for the new season’s stock – and help to pay off bills that are waiting to be paid.

Shoppers get the same guarantees on their products as the rest of the year round – but have no legal right to return goods if they are not faulty. Faulty goods, if the fault is not readily visible, must be replaced or the cost refunded.

Online, however, distance-trading laws apply and buyers can return products if they are not to their liking.

• As bargain-hunters scour the internet, 1,000 staff at 26 Virgin Megastore shops across France are waiting to hear their fate as the company is today formally declaring itself insolvent – a first step towards a possible liquidation, or the company hopes, a court-sanctioned restructuring. Virgin has been been badly hit by the switch to online sales of music and film downloads and, despite sales of €300million a year, has been making losses for four years.

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