When is the best time to shop for deals in France?

While the official sales periods are strictly regulated in France, many shops also host ‘ventes privées’ (private sales). We look at which events offer the best deals

The summer sales start this year on June 28
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Reader question: Will I get better deals if I shop during the ventes privées or the official sales period?

There are more opportunities than ever to find deals in French shops these days, but this has also led to confusion over when is the best time to buy, with the soldes, ventes privées, Black Friday and more all competing for our attention.

Theoretically greater reductions are available during the soldes, but it depends on what you are looking for.

The word soldes refers to the two official sales periods: one in the summer and one in winter, with the dates set by a decree from the Finance Ministry.

Companies are only allowed to advertise ‘sales’ during these two periods.

They usually begin on the second Wednesday in January (or the first Wednesday if the second Wednesday is later than January 12), and the last Wednesday in June (or second-to-last if the last Wednesday is later than June 28).

They run for four weeks.

So the 2023 summer sales will last from June 28 to July 25.

During this time shops can only offer reductions on items that are already in stock and that have been on sale for at least one month before the soldes began.

If they run out of stock they are not allowed to order more, as the idea is to offload old stock and make space for new collections.

The biggest price reductions can be found during the soldes, as these are the only times in the year when shops are legally allowed to sell products at a loss.

This is more likely to happen towards the end of the four weeks, as shops may offer several démarques (mark-downs), with ever-increasing reductions.

The rules around ventes privées (private sales) are more relaxed: they must only take place outside the official sales periods, and must be reserved for a specific group of people (hence the word ‘private’).

This usually means clients who have signed up to a loyalty card or newsletter, although it is often possible to sign up to the loyalty programme on the day, meaning that in practice anybody can benefit from the offers.

Many retailers have taken to holding ventes privées in the weeks leading up to the sales, adding to the confusion.

These offers can include items from the most recent collection, and shops are expected to restock when they run out.

There is generally, therefore, more stock available during the ventes privées. So if taking clothes as an example, it is easier to find what you are looking for in your size, even if the reductions are not always as significant.

The way these promotions work is often different to the soldes, and they may be limited.

During ventes privées, you may be offered a certain percentage off a single item of your choice, for example.

In summary, there are usually greater discounts to be had during the soldes, but ventes privées might be a better option if you are looking for a specific item.

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