- Clothing Stores – Boutiques
Shopping is incomparable in Paris, where fashion is current, and selection is enormous. Zara is one of the most popular stores for trendy reasonably priced clothing. Other lower cost options are H&M, Mango, Etam, and Monoprix. Teenagers also migrate towards American chains such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister & Co., and Top Shop, although the items are drastically more expensive than their counter parts in the U.S.
There are two major French department store chains, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps that provide a large selection and attract large numbers of tourists especially at their flagship locations on Boulevard Haussmann.
Independent boutiques also offer a wide range of fashion at varying purchase points and are still frequented as Parisians try to find that special one of a kind item that no one else has.
Sales help in Paris is not friendly. Returns are fairly easy in large department stores and chains, but not necessarily if items are purchased on sale. I encourage you to verify the return policy prior to making a purchase if you are uncertain about keeping it. I clearly remember trying on two pair of shoes, which sadly did not fit well. When I left without making a purchase, the sales clerk didn’t bother saying goodbye, a distinct change in attitude from her welcome. I have grown to enjoy the challenge of eliciting a smile out of a cashier or sales clerk to see them shed their tough outer Parisian shell. And on occasion when I’m successful, it puts me in even a better shopping mood!
- Shopping Hours
In Paris, many large stores are open seven days a week and some offer late hours. However, smaller boutiques may be open only Monday or Tuesday through Saturday and occasionally close during the lunch hour.
- Variety Stores
There are also two modern European variety stores with everything you need and don’t need, but want to buy. They are Hema, a Dutch chain and Flying Tiger Copenhagen, a Danish chain.
- Flea Market
Two large Flea Markets north of Paris are Les Puces de Saint-Ouen and the Paris Flea Market at Porte de Clignancourt, and in the south is Les Puces de Vanves.
It’s crucial to quickly pass through the main arteries where venders sell cheap knock-offs and products made in Asia. On nearby side streets you can find all sorts of merchandise, similar to what you could find on eBay, but the advantage here is that you can touch and see the objects prior to buying. Always barter to lower the price.
If all your banking can be done with an ATM card or on-line, you can save yourself the time of dealing with banks. The hours vary between branches but they are usually open from 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday and some branches have Saturday hours. While U.S. banks aren’t renowned for their customer service, French banking service pales in comparison.
Post offices, referred to as La Poste, are conveniently located throughout Paris and provide a range of services including banking. They may have several different lines depending on what you need, and if it is to send a package or buy stamps, make sure you are in the right place. Overall, I have been impressed with the mail service between Paris and the U.S., where delivery typically takes about one week.