Not only are the sales on here but we found some 'new' shops. Well, they're not new at all and in fact, unbeknown to us, we've been driving straight past them without realising they were there!!! In other words, they are new to us!
Niort is a large town in the Deux-Sevres department of France where we live and I guess it is the English equivalent of a county town. (Click here if you'd like to know more about the town). It is about 60 kilometres from where we live (around 45 minutes drive) and it has a large shopping centre which we've been using to buy things like electrical goods, DIY products and it is home to the fabric shop I mentioned in an earlier post. When I say 'shopping centre'... it is like a huge retail park of individual stores as opposed to a shopping mall. Also, we have had to go to Niort to sort out things like our health cover, registering vehicles in France etc. Whenever we've been there, on our way out of the town we drive past what I knew to be a large supermarket called "Géant Casino" but I didn't know it is more than that. Have you been to Cité Europe in Calais? It is a large shopping mall with a huge hypermarket called Carrefour (which is actually a chain of supermarkets here too). Well, it turns out we have a miniscule version of that in Niort, with Géant Casino being the hypermarket and a number of other stores, some that will be well known to those of you in the UK, like H&M and Claire's Accessories.
But we found something else too! Being the first day of the sales (more about that later) the car park at Géant Casino was packed and we had to park a little way back. But there were MORE shops where we parked, and these I had never seen before as they are not visible from the main road. There was a big shop called "Babou", which sold all sorts of housewares, art and craft goods and clothes.... not to mention some rather "naughty" DVDs....only in France, eh?!!! There was also a pet shop, called Animal & Co, which is remarkably like the UK's 'Petsmart' except that they had pedigree puppies for sale for exorbitant prices (and it wasn't very nice to see them in display windows). But best of all, there was a large C&A store! Remember them? We used to have C&A throughout the UK but they closed down some years ago. We've come across them in Europe before but didn't know we had one practically on our doorstep! Okay, it's not like finding a Next or an M & S store but it's pretty damn good nonetheless!! We both treated ourselves to a couple of bits while we were there..... well, it would have been rude not to!!
So, just a few words about the sales here in France. Like so many things, sales are state-regulated and generally run during two periods of the year; once just after Christmas and the other in the Summer. Both run for five weeks and with a few exceptions, the dates are pretty much fixed in stone. The winter sale began yesterday, on the second Wednesday of January. Why do the French regulate their sales? The reasoning behind the Government's ruling of sales just twice a year, at the same time for all retailers, is to control competition and it is said that it keeps the big retailers from driving the smaller stores out of business with their ability to bulk buy and hold sales at the drop of a hat. All the stores, big and small, clear out items from the previous season, gradually slashing prices over the course of the five weeks. We are told that prices are reduced by 20% to 50% to start with and as the weeks go by, they are further reduced by up to 70% or even more.
In addition to these two sales periods, store owners do also have the right to schedule two weeks of sales during the year with the only caveat being that it must be finished more than a month before the official sales begin.
Having told you all this, I have to say, I've never really been interested in "the sales" unless I am looking for something specific. Not for me the queues outside stores or poking people with my umbrella to get to that 'must have' bargain! Perhaps I'll go along to some of the shops in week five just to see what's left...... I suspect there'll be very little of interest by then!!! Ah well, c'est la vie!