Les Soldes translates into The Sales in English. In France, sales are regulated by the state. France allows businesses two periods each year to mark down their merchandise, one in the summer and one in the winter, each lasting six weeks.
The fact that France has national sales means that every store has a sale starting and ending on the same days throughout the entire country. Since these are the only two times each year where stores can use sales to clear out the last year’s merchandise, almost everywhere has sales. Anything from the local boutique, to the big department stores (Printemps, Galaries Lafayette, etc.), to designer brands, to the hardware store… even the supermarkets mark down some of their goods! And these sales are a good deal, merchandise is marked down anywhere from 30-50%. As you approach the end of the six weeks, things just keep getting cheaper… it is the only time where stores have the right to sell merchandise at a loss.
Additionally, the stores are not allowed to bring in special merchandise for les soldes. That means whatever you’ve been eyeing for the past month will probably be on sale. Of course, there are the things with the biggest markdowns that nobody wants to buy, but then most of the normal merchandise is also on sale. Shoes, handbags, backpacks, clothes, coats, decor, books, hardware supplies… you can get great deals on normal things you need! My cell phone company even did a promo for les soldes, giving everyone free and unlimited data access on the weekends for 6 months!
For example, I was able to get a great wool coat for 50% off! Which is great because I spend way more time outside here waiting for a bus, or walking to the store, and am always freezing.
On one hand, it is nice to be able to expect the sale coming, know how long it is going to be, and know that it is going to be everywhere… it almost ensure finding a good deal if you can wait until January or June. On the other hand, I find it a big strange that the government controls the sales… and it is inconvenient not being able to look for sales or clearance prices all the time.