La Periode Des Soldes

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Have you ever seen that extremely clever ad campaign for Walmart, typically shown in mid-August as people prepare for school starting again? Parents dance around the aisles to a Christmas song, basking in the thought that their kiddies will be back in school before too long.

In France, “the most wonderful time of the year” refers neither to Christmas, nor to la rentrée (the return) to school. It refers to la periode des soldes. The time of the clearance sales only comes twice a year: in January and July. Strict laws control stores from having clearance sales at any other time. Sure, they have “promotions” where certain canned goods are a few cents cheaper, or you can get half-off one book if you buy another. But that is about as far as “sales” go in France, until July and January. Then, even merchandise as large and expensive as furniture can be bought for 50% off. If you wait until the last week, you might be able to get 70% off (if its still there). Damaged, discontinued, over-stocked, out-of-season—you name it, you can find it in a gargantuan bin in a store during “the clearance sales.” And people flock in droves to the sales to rummage through thousands of socks in a cardboard box the size of a swimming pool. People rush like animals at the trough on the first day, sending their children in a dozen directions with little lists of their own.

While I don’t like waiting in the lines that accrue with all these mad soldes-shoppers, I like les soldes. France is an expensive country, and I can’t afford to buy much here. But during les soldes in January, I furnished my apartment at a fraction of the real cost of my furniture. I bought my niece Sydney some very cute little outfits for only a few dollars apiece and sent them to Ben and Corie. Since I was just in the States, I don’t really need anything right now, (although I did find a dirt-cheap picture frame, while diving in a large bin today).

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Ariel Rainey