Dates of January sales in France and key points to know

Your guide to the official start-of-the-year winter soldes

Closeup of discount sign saying ‘Soldes jusqu'a 50%’
In most regions, the winter sales for 2024 will begin on Wednesday, January 10, at 08:00, and last four weeks
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The January sales are known as ‘les Soldes d’hiver’ in France, and their dates are laid out in the Journal Officiel, although they are not always the same everywhere. Here is how they work.

This year, some shops were able to start ‘ventes privées (private sales)’ in December 2023, but the vast majority of stores wait until later in January to begin their major cost-saving deals. The Journal Officiel stated the definite dates in a decree published on December 21.

What are the soldes?

The official ‘soldes’ periods are regulated sales that take place nationwide. This idea dates back to the 1800s when department stores first opened in France.

Soldes periods are the only times that shops are permitted to sell their goods at a loss - as opposed to promotions and ventes privées that may happen at other times of the year - which means that good deals may be found.

In contrast, a promotion means offering a special price on certain items, for a short, limited period. Un rabais is a reduction because an item has a minor defect. A vente privée refers to the practice of inviting selected people in to browse reduced-price items - for example, holders of a store’s loyalty card may be invited at special opening hours or into a cardholder-only area.

Soldes in France typically go through démarques (mark-downs), which increase as the sales go on (starting at 20-40%, up to 50%, for example).

When are the sales?

In most regions, the winter sales for 2024 will begin on Wednesday, January 10, at 08:00, and last four weeks, until February 6.

But in contrast to the 2023 summer sales, some parts of the country will have slightly different dates. These include Meurthe, Meuse, and Vosges, whose sales have already begun (January 2) and are set to last until January 30, 2024.

What should I be aware of for sales in France?

The main advice for shoppers is to be alert to ‘hidden’ methods that shops may use to attract customers.

The most common method is to inflate the ‘original’ or starting price - which may have only been displayed for a day or so - before dropping the price and claiming a large discount and a better deal, warns consumer association 60 Millions de Consommateurs.

Some stores also allegedly order special collections that have never been seen in shops before, and sell them at ‘low prices’, despite the goods never having been on sale at ‘full’ price previously.

Technically, any items sold on sale must have been available at full price for at least one month before the sale period, and the price tag should show the new price with the old price crossed out (unless the reduction is the same for all items, and this is clearly shown in the shop).

You may be able to spot the best deals by checking the price of products you want before the sales start, and then comparing the ‘lower’ prices afterwards.

Items on sale also have the same guarantees as those sold at other times. For example, they must not have vices cachés (hidden faults that are not obvious, such as a machine that turns out not to work) and if they do, the shop should replace them or offer a refund.

However, shops may often be stricter on not refunding or exchanging sales items that are in perfect working order or good condition should you have simply changed your mind.

The rules on sales also apply to internet-based firms.

For internet purchases from French firms, you also benefit from an automatic 14 days from receipt to return goods if you change your mind, whether they are on sale or not. Some items are excluded, such as personalised goods, sealed cosmetics that have been opened, and other sealed items that have been opened.

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