Shopping in Paris: Hermès at a Discount

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Classic carré scarves at a Hermès sale

Pick just one, I dare you.

If there were a Greek god for shopping in Paris, it would have to be Hermes. The store that bares his name is undoubtedly a temple to the art, and like Mount Olympus, the prices are impossibly high for mere mortals. But like all great gods, Hermes shows great compassion for the commoner, and twice a year the heavens part as Hermès holds a sale.

To avoid a swarm of bargain hunters in its elegant boutiques, Hermès holds the 3-4 day event off site, most recently at the Palais des Congrès, near the Porte Maillot metro station. The doors open at 9 a.m., but the lines start forming at around 6 a.m. I’m not sure it was worth getting to the sale too early, as there was still plenty of merchandise to go around by the third day, and those that arrived at 6 a.m. had to wait longer than I did, with a 9:30 a.m. arrival.

Even the lines are decorated with art by Hermès

Even the lines are decorated with art by Hermès.

Speaking of lines, there were several: entry, mandatory coat check (winter only), scarves, small leather goods, checkout and VAT refund. In all, I spent three hours standing around to save about 150 euros on a couple of the classic carré scarves. The people in line around me, toting ostrich Birkin bags and crocodile shoes they already owned, did much better, saving (and spending) thousands on cashmere throws, ties, belts, dishware, canvas bags, small leather goods, shoes, gloves and clothing.

You may have noticed that I mentioned a special line for the scarves. At previous sales, the scarves were left out for shoppers to look through at their leisure. They would scoop up dozens, head to a corner and try each one on until they’d made their selection, then leave the rejects in an unceremonious pile to be snagged, torn or trampled. But this is Hermès, and it doesn’t sell damaged goods, not even at a discount. The losses were important enough that bargain hunters must now stand in line before accessing three tables piled high with samples of each style available. After you use the strategically placed mirrors to make your selection, a salesperson puts your scarf in an envelope and hands you a claim ticket so you can pick it up at the time of purchase. Women waiting in line are usually so overcome with excitement that they lean over to illicitly snatch at the goods, creating a scene of chaos and mayhem, which is quite unnecessary, as there is plenty of everything to go around.

A frenzy for shoes at a Hermès sale.

A frenzy for shoes.

The checkout line was my personal favorite, with wealthy folks from across the globe sharing photos of their favorite Hermès handbags, paying in large bricks of cash and exchanging tips on the best addresses—Malaysia or Dubai, and I learned that Singapore was the best for watches—for their next Hermès purchase. And yes, its all duty free if you have the courage to stand in yet another line before heading home with the ultimate haul from shopping in Paris.

Editor’s note: Sad you missed the Hermès sale? Console yourself with our new iPhone app, Paris Highlights.

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