Not so official
I came for the holidays to Nice, Cote d’Azur, without big expectations about bargain shopping, as it is ridiculously expensive in the first place, and of course this year’s seasonal sales start January 11th, when I’ll be back at home anyway.
The plan was to enjoy the sunny weather, spectacular views and French food, of course!
I know, we are getting quite used to the fact that following seasons and retail events come earlier every year. We might as well start browsing for swimwear now… And the French strict policies were the last mainstay of common sense in the crazy world of 12 fashion collections every year!
No more, though.
French retailers found the way to outsmart the system. How? Right after Christmas we started noticing signs “Vente privée” here and there.
What it is? Hard to say now. Private sales used to be exclusive events for loyal customers, so they could stock up last collection items for lower prices first, before the crowds. They weren’t advertised. Invitations were sent directly to befriended clients, very often with a compulsory “R.S.V.P.”. Example? Twice a year I receive an invite from Valentino Avenue Montaigne boutique in Paris because I used to shop there, have a personal relation with one sales assistant, and left my details in their system. Usually the private sale lasts 3-4 days only, and discounts are up to 30%. The advantages are: being invited to the exclusive event; being able to shop while the inventory is still good; getting a small incentive in the form of a rebate.
That’s the past version.
Now it’s enough to be registered in shops’ databases to be offered lower prices before official sales start. When shopping in department stores as Galerie Lafayette, you need to show a loyalty card at the cash register. And I’m telling you – “soldes” are now up to 50%, and won’t get better next week. But the selection is still good now, so it’s worth getting the card as soon as possible.
In the boutiques it depends on the staff: at Sandro, where I shop occasionally, but never shared my e-mail with, I was able to use the discount at the very last moment before paying, by just giving my details to the clerk. It saved me 50% on cute lace shirt and cozy pullover I had an appetite for from sometime already.
Then at Petit Bateau where I was sure the same system works, surprisingly I was refused an additional discount on my purchases, and there were no option to fix it at the register as I had in Sandro. So – as a conscious client – I eventually refused to make a purchase at all. If they decide to show only the racks with clothing signed with the sales tags, they should understand nobody wants to spend more on it than they have to, right?
When shopping in France make sure to sign up in the boutiques you want to shop at in the future. If you miss that chance – ask. Asking costs nothing and can save you tons of money. If asking doesn’t work – be consistent and… make it up. Sometimes staying assertive and convincing about being registered (“There must be something wrong with your system! I’m sure I received an e-mail invitation to your private sale…“) really works magic. Knowing a little français wouldn’t hurt, either…
And remember to create an alternative e-mail address for all the shopping needs, unless you want to get a lot of spam!
They don’t do sales
Don’t bother looking for discounts at Louis Vuitton – they never ever lower their prices.
Gucci this Winter is greedy as well – I’ve learnt from sales assistant in Cannes they decided not to slash price tags this season. Obviously Alessandro Michele’s designs sell out anyway.
Top fashion houses as Chanel, Fendi, Valentino, Dior, Ermanno Scervino tend to remain tight-lipped. Pre-sales aren’t open to the public, but if you enter the boutique with right dose of self-confidence – you’ll probably be offered with sales selection.