Sales are strictly regulated in France with retail outlets only able to declare goods on sale at certain times of the year with the summer season kicking off for five weeks. Internet shops can also offer products as part of the summer sales.
The rules mean that only products which have been on sale for at least a month can be discounted. Failure to adhere to this rule can result in a fine of €15,000.
Shop keepers must also distinguish clearly between products in the sale and those that are not with clear signs and labels. Ideally sales goods should be completely separate from other merchandise.
They are breaking the law if they say that goods in the sale cannot be returned or exchanged if it is defective. But they can refuse to do so if the customer simply wants to change it because they don’t like it anymore.
Seasoned sales shoppers in France wait until after the first 10 days as after that products are discounted even further. As the end of the sales period approaches even bigger discounts are offered.
But consumer groups warn that where clothes are concerned the choice of sizes is often limited towards the end of the sales. Also quality may have deteriorated towards the end.
Some shops, especially in areas with a lot of tourists, are opening on Sundays during the summer months. While bakers, butchers and florists are usually open on a Sunday morning, others are increasingly doing so to boost trade.
Other shops have been organising ‘private sales’ where they invite customers who have signed up text message or email to special evening events where even more bargains can be on offer.
According to an Ipsos survey commissioned by the National Council of Shopping Centres (CNCC), some 76% of the French plan to do the summer sales, an increase of 5% compared with a poll taken at the same time last year.
This is a positive sign according Jean-Michel Silberstein of the CNCC. ‘The French have slowed their spending in recent years. This year may benefit from people wanting to put austerity behind them,’ he said.
‘It is hard to know how it will go this year. Information on the economy has been unclear. The sales offer a good opportunity,’ said Jean-Marc Genis, executive chairman of the Federation of Clothing Shops.