Eight o'clock on the morning of Wednesday, January 6th, is when the winter sales get underway in the French capital. From that point until the shops close on February 9th, the prices will get lower and lower during this winter marathon of discount shopping. This is the chance to renew your wardrobe in the fashion capital.
The well-known and well-loved stores are a good starting point to test the elasticity of your flexible friend - and this is the time when the plastic should stretch farther than ever. The Galeries Lafayette at 40 Boulevard Haussmann, are unmissable, and offer designer labels such as Burberry, Agnes B., Fendi, Guess, John Galliano, Ungaro, Kenzo, Cartier and many other fashion gurus. And at Printemps (www.printemps.com), just a few doors down at number 64 of the same street, you'll find everything from a Marc Jacobs or Sonia Rykiel creation to Furla accessories and the latest swimwear from Etro or Stella McCartney.
Another great classic store, La Samaritaine, remains closed for renovations, but Le Bon Marche at 24 Rue de Sevres is definitely worth a visit. Like Galeries Lafayette, you can browse the website for many of its bargains and even buy them online if you really can't get away to Paris right now.
As well as the department stores, there are the boutiques, and those seeking the prestige labels will find pretty nearly all of them around the elegant Avenue Montaigne, Rue Royale and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore. Classics such as Dior, Chanel, Bulgari, Valentino, and more modern names, such as Jimmy Choo and Chloe all make their home in this luxury Parisian quarter.
There's also the possibility of browsing through some of the innovative "concept stores", where you have the chance to make your purchases without the rush, combining shopping with browsing a magazine, visiting an exhibition in the store or recouping your strength with an exotic tea or a bite of sushi while you make your decisions about what to buy.
At 213 on the Rue Saint-Honore, one of the concept store pioneers is Colette, a total "must" for anyone interested in style, where you'll find the latest in clothes, cosmetics, music, decor, technology as well as the latest fads and fancies from the four corners of the world. More affordable are the oriental and hippy-chic collections of the branches of Antoine et Lili, which can also be purchased online.
Marais, the capital's gay district and traditional Jewish quarter, is a hotbed of trends, packed with boutiques - from fashion to antiques to vintage accessories - on streets such as Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Rue de Turenne and Rue des Rosiers, all brimming with the latest in new and creative designs.
Also showcasing the work of young hopefuls, the Rue Etienne Marcel and the pedestrianised Rue Montorgueil, near Les Halles, or Rue des Gardes, in the area of Montmartre. Here, along the Boulevard de Rochechouart and Rue Steinkerque, you'll do well to seek out the branches of Sympa, which usually have quality label clothing from previous seasons at bargain prices. Now, of course, they're an even better deal than usual.
In the Saint Germain district, dotted with cafes and startlingly chic boutiques, look for the most original shoe shops in streets such as the Rue Grenelle and the Rue Cherche-Midi, where you'll find another good location with the outlet Cherceminipippes, whose stores offer bargains in decor and fashion for all the family with additional discounts during the sales period.