What's the story behind "les soldes" (the sales) in France?
Signs in all colours indicate -30%, -50% and even -80%. People are queuing up in front of the stores while the shopkeepers fill the shelves with whatever is left in their stock. Consumption at its peak: "les soldes" in France.
Twice a year, in winter and summer, for six weeks there is what is called LES SOLDES in France and in the Oversea Departments. This means that during this time there are price reductions for unsold products that have been offered for selling at least one month before. The reduction can even go as far as a loss resale. The market that is most affected is the clothing market. There, the sales period aims at emptying the stock level so that traders can fill it with new trends.
But where does this tradition come from? A little history to unearth the origins of this period of increased consumption.
In the 19th century, the phenomenon of mass distribution appeared more and more. In 1830 it was Simon Mannoury who "invented" the sales for the first Parisian department store called "Petit Saint-Thomas" which was the ancestor of the famous "Le Bon Marché" shopping centre in Paris. The founding member of the latter, Aristide Boucicaut, was at that time still employed at this first one. Young and inexperienced as he was, he dropped a bedding kit in a river but instead of throwing it away he cut it up into pieces and managed to sell it quite easily on the street. Remembering this episode later, he created "The White Week" in his department store Au Bon Marché, referring both to the colour of the snow that fell at the time of the sales (after the Christmas holidays) and to the traditionally white sheets that he took out of stock to sell at low prices during that week.
=> For those who are interested in this period and the change in commerce, I highly recommend the book "Au Bonheur des Dames" by Emile Zola, which is a realistic portrait of this period!
Due to Mannoury, who practiced significant rebates, and Boucicaut, who developed and formed this idea, "les soldes" became increasingly important so that this ritual is even taken into account by a law created in 1906 to prevent abuses.
This law also defines the characteristics of "les soldes" and makes them a regulated sale.
So, if you want to come to France and take advantage of this period in the same time you should either come from the last Wednesday of June or from the 2nd Wednesday of January; these are the dates when the sales normally take place (Of course this information should be checked every year! With COVID for example, the sales have been shortened in 2020 to only 4 weeks).
Consumption should always be a well-considered act to remain responsible and reasonable, let's all think about our environment. In Montpellier, for example, you can find a large selection of good second-hand shops that offer clothing all year round at prices that "les soldes" can only dream of.