One thing we have found slightly different here in France is how the SALES work. For a start, they are called SOLDES, only take place twice a year, and use a colour-coded % discount system. This simple guide has everything you need to know.
When are the sales in France?
There are two main sales that take place in France. These are four weeks in the summer and four weeks in the winter. Beginning and ending dates are fixed, and it is the law for all sellers to adhere to this.
January sales start a bit later than you might be used to in France – the exact dates change each year, but they don’t typically start straight after Christmas or on the first of January. Instead, the winter sales usually start the second Wednesday of January at 8am (or the first Wednesday after the 12th of January).
The Summer sales in France usually start the last Wednesday in June at 8am (or the Wednesday before if the last Wednesday is after 28th June).
These dates apply to online e-commerce sales in France too.
Outside of these periods, sellers can advertise price reductions, but they are not permitted, by law, to use the word SALES /SOLDES. Any ‘Stock clearance’ which may run outside of the Sales times in France must end when the stock has been sold and cannot run on indefinitely.
Shopping in the French sales
There must be a clear distinction, by law, between normal-priced items and reduced-price items, so labels need to be clear. The previous price (the lowest price within the last 30 days) needs to be crossed out, and either the new price or the total amount of the discount.
However, unlike in other countries, you may not see the ‘sale’ amount written – often, it is left to the buyer to work this out based on the percentage discount offered (have your phone calculator handy!). In this instance, item tags are typically marked with different coloured stickers, such as red, green, yellow, blue, etc., each of which represents a different % reduction. You need to refer to the posters or displays that detail all the different reductions: for example, ‘red sticker’ = 20%, ‘blue sticker’ = 15%. Amounts and colours will vary between stores, so make sure you check!
You might also see deals such as “Buy any five items and pay for four” or “ Buy the first item at x price, and the second item is X price.” Whatever the deal, make sure you understand it, and if you are not sure, turn to a translation application, or ask one of the sales assistants to help. It’s not always as simple as it seems to calculate exactly how much you will save!
Returns, guarantees, and refunds on sales items
During sales time, the consumer has the same rights as usual concerning after-sales service and governing after-sales defects.
Items showing “No refund nor exchange” can only be labelled as such legally if there is already a pre-existing known fault. If you buy faulty goods without being alerted to this fault beforehand, your consumer rights to an after-sales service remain unchanged.
Read our guide to Shopping in France: Returns, Exchanges, and Consumer Rights
Money-saving deals and reductions in France
Outside of the main sales, you will also see deals and reductions – ‘promotions’ – in supermarkets and other stores. One of the best pieces of advice our neighbour gave to us when we arrived in France was that if you see something in a supermarket or shop on promotion that you want to buy, buy it there and then. Do not think to yourself, “Oooh, I can pick that up tomorrow or next week…” This is due to the fact that many shops in France simply do not carry stock.
It took me ages to understand why the shop assistant in our local supermarket was so exasperated by my “excuse me, do you please have any more X?” questions. There is no warehouse out back and no extra stock. What is on the shelves is on the shelves. Full stop! They receive weekly deliveries of promotional stock, so once it’s gone, it’s gone. When I apologised and explained my misunderstanding, she thought it was hilarious!
Buy one get one free, and similar deals
Buy one, get one reduced price seems to be the norm rather than BOGOF in France. This particular offer of paying full price for the first item and a reduced price for the second item or third item is very common in supermarkets year-round. Do read the label/shelf ticket carefully, as some offers only apply to store-card holders. The trick is to read the labels carefully. Sometimes, as a learner of the French language, all is not what it first may appear! Plus, the sizing and positioning of text could be confusing to some so do double check and ask if necessary.
Read our guide to Supermarkets, Covered Markets, and Food Shopping in France
Local Life in France
From shopping at the supermarket to sending a parcel at Post Office, finding your local dechetterie to who to call in an emergency—FrenchEntrée is here to help with every aspect of day-to-day living in France. Read our Essential Reading guides for advice on living in France, visit our Shopping zone or Pets zone, or brush up your language skills with our handy learning French resources.
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