If Santa left you a little extra cash this holiday season, hop a plane to Paris so you can hit the spectacular sales that always begin in the second week of January. Here are some tips to help you find the deals — and compensate for an exchange rate that’s more naughty than nice. WHAT’S THE DEAL? From Jan. 6 to Feb. 10, nearly every store in Paris will put fall and winter merchandise on sale. Dates are officially set by the government and discounts of 50% off are commonplace. The best deals are on seasonal items like clothing, but it’s rare to find a store that isn’t playing along. (Hint: Look for the signs that say soldes.) Avoid the Saturday crowds and remember, many shops are closed on Sundays. WHERE THE BUYS ARE: Short on time? Hit the department stores (addresses are listed on the official Paris Tourism website) to up your buying power with discount cards and tax refunds (see below). At Monoprix stores, scattered across the city, find bargains on clothing, accessories and makeup. For a convenient block of discount shops, head to Rue Saint-Placide, between Cherche-Midi and Sèvres (6th Arrondissement; Metro: Sèvres-Babylone), where Mouton à Cinq Pattes (No. 8 and 18) has designer clothing and Du Pareil Au Même (No. 14) sells creative kids’ wear. Farther afield, Rue d’Alésia (14th Arrondissement; Metro: Alésia) is lined with outlet stores, including Cacharel (No. 114) and Daniel Hechter (No. 92). Or keep an eye out for these money-saving clues on the front of stores: dégriffé (designer merchandise with labels removed); stock (surplus stock boutiques, often outlets) and dépôt-vente (resale shop). DISCOUNT CARDS: Department stores Au Printemps, Galeries Lafayette and La Samaritaine offer 10 percent discount cards year-round. Find them in tourist brochures or ask at the stores’ welcome desks. You must show your passport with each purchase, and some products are excluded.
Delicious boots – delicious prices! When the Paris sales start, almost everything is 50% off
COOL THINGS TO BUY WITHOUT THE EIFFEL TOWER ON THEM: Head to a grocery store for deals under $3, including Maille flavored mustards (or visit the Maille mother ship), Confipote jams, dark chocolate bars, elegant teas and flavored tisanes (herb teas) . . . Monoprix has chunky-chic Rhodia notepads for around $2 and addictive store-brand dark chocolate bars packed with whole almonds – or spend a bit more and get a pair of iconic patterned tights. . . Diptyque candles (34 Blvd. Saint Germain, 5th Arrondissement; Metro: Maubert-Mutualité; or department stores) are expensive but divine; save $10 to $20 over U.S. prices . . . For an upscale take on Home Depot, check out the BHV (52/64 Rue de Rivoli, 4th Arrondissement; Metro: Hotel-de-Ville), which offers all sorts of home decor, including très-French wall stencils int the paint department. . . For a vast food playground, head to La Grande Epicerie (38 Rue de Sèvres; 7th Arrondissement; Metro: Sèvres-Babylone), where you’ll find everything from home molecular gastronomy kits to frozen dinners by Michelin-starred chefs. TAX REFUND: Taxes of up to 19.6 percent are included in French sticker prices. You can get some of it back if you spend a minimum of 175 euros (about $215) in the same store on the same day. This sweet deal, for non-EU citizens only, is the detaxe. The easiest tactic is to group your purchases at a single department store, then take the receipts to a customer service desk, where they’ll start the paperwork for a 12 percent refund to your credit card. Don’t forget your passport. Other tourist-friendly stores should give the detaxe and may refund more than 12 percent — but ask before buying. When you leave France (or the EU), get the papers stamped at a Customs office (“Douanes“) and drop them in the mail, using the included prepaid envelope. At the airport, do this before checking your luggage (you may have to show the goods) and allow plenty of time to wait in line. SHOPPING BOOKS: Love it or hate it, Suzy Gershman’s Born to Shop Paris: The Ultimate Guide for People Who Love to Shop is the best-known guide, with some good tips but heavy doses of the author’s personality. Other useful resources include the Insight Guide Shopping in Paris, by Cathy Muscat, which is organized by location; The Paris Shopping Companion: A Personal Guide to Shopping in Paris for Every Pocketbook, by Susan Swire Winkler, also organized by location; and Best Buys and Bargains in Paris: (Yes, they do exist!), by Jeanne Feldman, organized by product type. Make sure you get the most recent edition, as stores come and go quickly. SHOPPING TOURS: Chic Shopping Paris (011-336-14-56-23-11) offers a number of four-hour tours ranging from food to baby gear to antiques, plus custom sale tours – and the founder, Rebecca Magniant, has also written Chic Shopping Paris” target=blank>a shopping guide book. French Links (011-331-45-77-01-63) has a “Pretty Lady” day of beauty and shopping, a discount designer tour and other offerings. Shopping Plus (011-331-47-53-91-17) has three tours, including haute-couture, and offers tea or lunch as part of the itinerary. INFO: For details on Paris shopping, go to www.paris-touristoffice.com; click on “English,” then “Shopping.” !
A few tasty items I picked up at Monoprix and brought back to the U.S.