The Half-Price Dress of Your Dreams

'On Sale' in Paris May Be
Better than 'Wholesale' Elsewhere

Paris:- Thursday, 2. January 1997:- From the métro station in front of the Opéra, it is only about two blocks to the 'grand boulevard' Haussmann and its 'grands magazins' where the annual winter sales will take place.

It is as you probably know by now, it is freezing cold; probably about five below zero. In front of the Opéra there are people around, but I am not going to stand around and watch to see if they are standing around taking in the sights. I need a café and quickly.

When I get that successfully over with, I head for Haussmann by going up the rue Halévy to the Chaussée d'Antin corner of the boulevard. For 'sales' it looks like I am early, as a big Galeries Lafayette crew are dismantling the Christmas decorations and another crew are putting 'Soldissimmo' transparent stickers on the windows that are curtained.

Galerie Lafayette

These crews have goose-necked trucks and low-riders blocking a lane of Haussmann and traffic is bumper to bumper. On the sidewalk it is pretty much he same, even though all of the store's outside stalls are empty. This is the same at Printemps, further along.

To make sure about the 'sales' I go in and ask the security agent at the door, but he doesn't know; he doesn't 'work' here. There is always some attraction at the Galeries under its glassed dome and I walk to the centre to see what it is.

Well, well, Santa twirling around at one end of a baton with a red-suited 'Batman' - he's got wings! - at the other. I have to dodge around a bit between the perfume stands to get an acceptable view, but without a fairly wide lens, there is no way to get the figures, the elegant galeries and the dome all at once.

On the way out, I ask a lady at a costume jewelry stand if the 'sales' have started and she says, tomorrow, Friday. She also says her stuff will be 50 percent off; and it varies from nothing to 20, 30, 40 and 50 percent, depending on the department. Perfume, for example, is never 'on sale.'

According to Le Parisien, there are new rules in force for the bi-annual 'sales.' The stock marked as 'on sale' must have been in the store or on the shelves for 30 days at its regular price before it can be sold as 'on sale.' Everything 'on sale' has to carry a ticket with its original price on it, so you will know what you are saving. No extra stock, manufactured especially for the 'sales,' is allowed to be sold.

These are the new rules and there will be inspectors looking things over, but all the same, business is business and some of it may be funny business.

It is not just the big and famous department stores that have 'sales' now - all shops, including the 'petites boutiques,' in Paris, and in France can have them - including those specializing in out-of-season stock or discontinued lines. As the new spring gear will be along shortly, even the name-label-removed discounters will be trying to unload their old stock, and this may result in a year-old big name fashion item that was formally discounted at 30 percent off, getting another 50 percent whacked off its price.

Galerie Lafayette

The 'sales' start tomorrow in Paris and they will last until Thursday, 13. February. The actual dates may vary outside Paris - and there will be another 'sale' period from about mid-June until the end of July. The tradition goes back to 1906 and it is a serious business, as some outlets will do half their annual business during the sale periods.

Le Parisien offers some advice: don't grab that latest-season elaborately chic little cocktail dress, marked down 40 percent, right way. If you can stand the tension of waiting a couple of weeks, it may get another 20 taken off the 'sale' price. This is stuff, with name-brand labels of course.

For fun, at any time of year, you can go down to the rue d'Alésia - métro Alésia - and starting from the métro station, head west in this street. There are about 13 shops, all selling famous brand-named clothing, all for a minimum of 20 percent off. It is supposed to be worth the trip; that is, a least a round-trip métro ticket, or several hundred francs on a single article.

Tati

Finally, whatever you do, do not forget the Tati stores. If their regular prices already seem to be under 'sales' prices, think of what their sale prices might be.

A last thing to remember - times are tough and a lot of people in France do not buy any items of clothing unless they are on sale - which means that an awlful lot of people who are not just trying to save a little 'fun' money, will be out 'en masse' to take advantage of the once-every-six-month low prices.

If you get into a tug-of-war over some neat sweater with another customer, try to remember not to be rude. Pretend instead that you are on the same combat team.

Happy hunting!

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