Paris shoppers ready to pounce on big discounts

Tue Jan 6, 2009 1:04pm EST
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By Astrid Wendlandt and James Regan

PARIS (Reuters) - Shoppers are set to storm Paris streets on Wednesday for the start of the winter sales, with department stores such as Printemps slashing prices by up to 80 percent to offload stock after grim Christmas trading.

It will follow similar stampedes in London, New York and other shopping capitals where customers have been lured in by cash-hungry retailers offering steep discounts.

"We are expecting to see the biggest discounts in years," said Lucien Odier, chairman of the French Apparel Retail Association whose members account for 40 percent of apparel and lingerie sales in France or 16 billion euros ($21.6 billion) a year.

"Shoppers know these big sales are coming, they have been waiting for them. I have seen many women preparing, taking notes. So I am optimistic about the outcome," said Odier, who represents brands such as H&M, Zara, Caroll, Naf Naf, Kookai, Etam and Celine.

Paris department stores Bon Marche, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps will open at 2 a.m. EST on Wednesday, close late and extend their trading hours through Saturday.

Staff at Printemps are bracing for more than 100,000 customers on Wednesday, store head Pierre Pelarrey told Reuters, adding he expected the sales to beat revenue taken in 2008.

"It's the biggest day of the year," Pelarrey said.

French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said on Tuesday that early winter sales in the east of France had gone well.   Continued...