I should have written about this years ago, I just never got around to it. When I first got to Paris I had a friend who told me that in France they only put stuff on sale twice a year. This is not necessarily true, throughout the year you can find 30-40% off sales, but if you’re looking for a truly ‘going out of business’ style discount, Soldes is when it occurs.
What is Soldes you might be asking. Well twice a year the government mandates when stores can have sales. For the dates you’ll have google because every year they start on different days. They usually run Wednesday to Tuesday for 6 weeks. They occur in the winter (hiver) and summer (été). The summer is a really good time to find stuff because most people have started summer vacations by then and are out of town.
You’ll know when this time comes around because you will see shop windows covered in “soldes” signs along with the level of discount they’re offering that week (denier marque for instance means they’re at the end and you’re looking at 60-70% or more off). Obviously the best time to buy if you’ve been keeping your eye on something is straight away. The deepest discounts are at the end, and if you’re not too picky some good finds can be had the last two weeks.
If you’re looking for stuff at stores like Zara though, total headache. Zara stops their “find in store” feature and it’s chaos. I once saw a line of women to look at a rack. They actually queued up so they could browse a rack of dresses. But at least for once the French figured out how to queue.