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Les Soldes

Keen for that Parisian chic look at a fraction of the price? Join in the frenzy of Les Soldes or the sales in Paris and other major French cities. You can save up to 80% on everything from suitcases to top designer labels. The sales events are state regulated and only take place twice a year:

The winter sales take place in January, finishing in early Febraury while the summer sales usually kick off at the very end of June and continue throughout July. Every shop, department store, boutique and designer outlet clears out items from the previous season and prices are gradually slashed over the course of the sales period.

Here are some tips to help you get the most from your sale shopping and snap up the bargains with all the pizzazz of a local:

Start before it starts: If possible, scout the shops BEFORE the sales start so you know exactly what you want to swoop on when the prices drop. The shops won't be as busy and you'll be able to try things on without the long queues. And on sale day, you can dash in and out quickly.

Avoid peak hour: If you can, try to avoid the busiest times like weekends, lunchtimes and after work. Although even during the week, you'll still be amazed with the frenzy of bargain shoppers.

Dress for Speed: Queues for dressing rooms are long, and you want to make the best use of your time, so wear something that's easy to slip on and off for quick changes. Wear comfortable shoes as you could walk quite a marathon to grab all the bargains, and preferably slip-ons if you're going shoe shopping.

Off the Beaten Track: Of course, you'll want to visit the main shopping meccas like the Champs Elysees and Galeries Lafayette. However, dont forget that much more unique bargains may be found in the back streets of Montmarte, the Latin Quarter, Les Halles, the Marais; anywhere that's not the main shopping area.

Do you love it? It's easy to get caught up in the sale fever. Just because it's a huge saving, doesn't mean you should buy it! Keep your money (or your credit card) for something you really want. Be prepared to spoil yourself, but if you don't absolutely love it, don't buy it.

Try again: Didn't find anything you liked at your favourite store on your first visit? The sales go for five weeks, so if you can, visit again as the stores are constantly replenishing stock.

When to pounce: The local Parisians will often wait until midway through the sales to snap up their bargains. Remember that prices will keep dropping as the sale weeks progress - the deuxième and troisième dèmarques — the second and third markdowns. Waiting until the very end will get you the best bargains, but choice will be limited. With shoes and clothes, it may be very difficult to find your size in the last days. Get the balance right so that you're not disappointed.

The fine print: Be aware that many stores will not accept returns or exchanges during the sale periods. Pas d'échanges ou reimboursements. Read the fine print before you buy.

Save even more: For Australians and other non-EU folk, you can claim the VAT back on departure. To obtain the refund, simply spend 175 euros in one store, present your receipt at the Tax Refund Office instore, and submit your form to the customs desk when you arrive at the airport. Be sure to have your goods on you and not packed in your luggage.

Enjoy les Soldes!!