Paris winter sales get off to chilly start

Thu Jan 8, 2009 5:08am EST
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By Astrid Wendlandt and James Regan

PARIS (Reuters) - Paris shoppers filed into stores on the first day of the winter sales on Wednesday but the crowd was thinner than previous years as economic worries and unusually cold weather held back many deal-hunters.

At fashion meccas Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, rows of shoes, coats and handbags from low-budget items to luxury brands Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Miu Miu were on offer at discounts of some 30-60 percent.

Printemps said its 17 French stores achieved a 4 percent year-on-year rise in revenue on the first day of the sales this year, marking a slowdown from 6 percent growth last year.

No separate figures were available on Wednesday for its flagship store in Paris' Boulevard Haussmann, said a spokeswoman, adding that its stores in Metz and Nancy began their sales on January 2.

Galeries Lafayette reported "slight growth" in revenue across its French stores, including in central Paris, "despite the strong disruption by the wave of cold".

Shoppers generally did not face huge struggles to reach the cashiers as queues remained short. But there were still some hurdles, with dozens of keen buyers forced to wait in line to enter the Gucci store at Galeries Lafayette and 20-deep queues in the Lafayette Homme menswear department.

"It's not as crazy as it usually is on the first day," said Cecile Coralle, 40, assistant to a director at Rothschild bank, who was buying two pairs of high-heeled shoes. "This time, I can find my size immediately whereas normally it's a battle."

Staff in the department stores also reported a calmer start to the sales this year than a year ago as shoppers faced temperatures as low as minus 9 degrees Celsius outside, though trading was still considered good.   Continued...