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Fashion & Lifestyle eCommerce min read
If we ask you to tell us about popular sales events, it’s a safe bet that you will answer Black Friday, Cyber Week, or even holiday shopping. But if you are French, chances are that you will instantly answer “les soldes” (in English: seasonal sales), a biannual country-wide event during which brands & retailers have the possibility to discount their products in order to empty their remaining stock. Split between summer and winter, French sales can account for up to 20% of a business’s annual turnover, a clear indicator of the extreme popularity of the event amongst both consumers and brands. But if you are not so familiar with this event, you may wonder what’s so special about it, and most importantly: how can it help your business grow. Here are 6 things you didn’t know about France’s most famous sales event:
Twice a year, there are more than 53.6 million French people (80% of the population) on the lookout for the best online and offline deals of the season. 53.6 million people. 3/4 of the French population: that’s more than Black Friday which attracts 62.9% of the country’s population. But why are they so popular? The Winter Sales, for example, happen right after Christmas, and are the perfect opportunity for French consumers to make post-Christmas bargains with the money Santa (or Grandma) gave them. For Pauline Reuter, Stylight’s Lead Partner Growth Manager France, “The Winter Sales especially are a key moment for brands & retailers to be visible online. As the event combines discounts and high priced products such as coats, boots and winter items, French consumers’ average basket size tends to be higher than during the rest of the year.” As for the Summer Sales, it’s the perfect occasion to revamp one’s wardrobe.
Seasonal sales are, as with Black Friday, the key revenue driver for brands & retailers in the French market. During these 8 to 12 weeks of French discounts (seasonal sales were lowered from 2 times 6 weeks in 2019 to 2 times 4 weeks in 2020), Stylight observes, for its partners, an average of 250% increase in revenue*, 22% more traffic* and 36% orders* compared to the rest of the year*. The Summer Sales alone enabled Stylight’s partners to generate an average of 2 times more revenue* than the rest of the year over the last 2 years.
Being the only time of the year when sellers are legally allowed to sell at a loss, the French Sales are undoubtedly an effective way for sellers to dispose of their unsold inventory. The discounts applied, of course, have an impact on the average order value, which tends to be lower than during the rest of the year during the French sales – we noticed an average of 6% decrease in AOV** during French seasonal sales compared to the rest of the year. However, seasonality plays a huge role in the AOV’s evolution: The Winter Sales tend to generate a higher AOV (+14% in 2020) than the Summer Sales, while transactions appear to be higher during the Summer Sales than during Winter ones (+64% in 2020).
As anything can be discounted during “les soldes,” one might wonder which categories Frenchies are mostly fond of when it comes to making good deals. Good news for fashion retailers: clothing & accessories is the most popular category for online sales shopping (68%), followed by shoes (60%), hygiene and beauty products (22%) and high tech products (19%). For the fashion and home & living verticals, here are the most popular product categories according to our French users during the sales season:
During “les soldes”, every business is allowed to apply discounts on their products in order to dispose of their unsold inventory. As a result, businesses are only allowed to apply a discount on those products that have been listed on their website or sold in their shops for more than 30 days. Not complying to this rule risks incurring a €5,000-€75,000 fine. Another essential step to follow is to list the original price of your products along with the discounted ones. The original price needs to be striked through, and don’t you dare apply fake discounts: you may lose customers and your reputation, as the French media won’t hesitate to mention you in the dedicated articles they write to call out brands after/during each sales season.
Finally, and as you may have understood by now: French sales are a big thing in France; so popular that one might think: “since Frenchies love ‘les soldes’ so much, how about I use the term ‘soldes’ for every single product promotion on my website?” Well, this could bring down the wrath of French authorities, as the term “soldes” can only be used during predefined time periods: French Sales last 4 weeks, starting the second Wednesday of January (8 am) for the Winter Sales, and the last Wednesday of June (8 am) for the Summer Sales. This is the only time frame during which you can call your discounts “soldes” in France. “But it does not mean that you cannot apply discounts to your products throughout the rest of the year, according to Pauline Reuter. Just replace this term with “promotions”, “déstockage” or “vente privée, and you’ll be safe.”