Paris courts big-spending tourists for winter sales


PARIS — As bargain-hunters gear up for the start of the Paris’s six-week winter sales on Wednesday, the city is rolling out a major campaign to attract big-spending tourists to the fashion capital.

When in Paris, wealthy Chinese tourists tend to concentrate on the big Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores, while Russians favour the Champs-Elysees avenue and nearby Faubourg Saint-Honore, according to Paris tourism officials.

Eager to entice them off the beaten track, the Paris tourism office has drawn up five shopping routes, including a “chic” path snaking past luxury boutiques and couture designers, a meander through hip young neighbourhoods and a romantic route designed specially for shopping “a deux”.

Shopping coaches, as well as trilingual hostesses and porters, will also be on hand to assist tourists as part of a promotional campaign costing half a million euros (740,000 dollars).

Working in partnership with 2,000 retailers and designers, Paris hotels are offering discounted packages to coincide with the January sales — usually a slow period for tourism — to help draw more shoppers to town.

Paris currently faces a number of brakes to its growth as a major international shopping capital: a strong euro, and regulations barring stores from opening on Sundays.

France’s Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said Monday she expected the government would also overhaul the strict legislation that limits retail sales to two six-week periods per year, in January and July.

“I think that whatever can boost consumer spending will be encouraged,” she told Canal Plus television, saying stores could in the future be allowed to put a selection of items on sale at any time in the year.