At first glance, you might think that every retail store in town is going out of business. There’s hardly a shop window in Carcassonne now that doesn’t have what I thought was an oddly-cheerful “sold” sign in the window. Twice a week the advertisements that fill our mailbox currently carry that same message as do the emails we receive from the supermarket we go to when we can’t find something at the open air market. Panic? Not at all when you take a word we recognize like “sold” and add the two letters “es” to the end to get the French word meaning SALES!
Retailers in France are required to follow certain rules that involve operating hours, days that they can be open, and when they can have big sales. Just recently legislation was approved to allow stores in some designated “tourist zones” to be open on Sundays. Before moving to Carcassonne we knew that shopping would generally be limited to Monday through Saturday so we’ve simply adapted. When we were house hunting, the real estate agent would always mention if a potential new home was within walking distance of a business open 7 days a week. As it turns out, once we move we’ll be able to shop daily to our heart’s content at a boulangerie for bread and pastries, the boucherie for meats, a poissonnerie for fish, or one-stop for everything at a well-stocked grocery store, all just “2 steps away”, as the real estate ads read.
So, is everything always at full price in France except during the two 6-week summer and winter SOLDES periods? Like anywhere else, people here appreciate a bargain so some reductions are certainly advertised all year. The difference is that merchandise can be priced at below the retailer’s cost, twice a year, to help clear out unsold products already in stock. If you’re in the market for last year’s model, for example, or an item the store thought would be popular but never was, then before August 2 is the time to buy it.
Although those soldes signs really are in most store windows, I’m still waiting for them to appear at the two bicycle shops in town. In an earlier blog post about the Tour de France passing through Carcassonne, you saw the price of electric bikes. Half off one of those would buy a lot of croissants and éclairs from the bakery,
especially nice on a Sunday!