France’s bi-annual sales, “les soldes,” kicked off last week. The French are known to take many things in life seriously (examples include bread laws and cheese regulations) and that doesn’t stop with the way they shop. The French Sénat regulates les soldes, which follow a strict structure: sales cannot be longer than five weeks and must begin on the same day (the second Wednesday of January and again the third Wednesday in June).
This approach couldn’t be more different than what we have in America, which is perpetually on sale. The cultural differences in approach to shopping don’t stop at sales, but extend into the psychology of how and what we buy. It’s true that French people tend to own fewer clothes, electronics, and cars than your average American and we can find at least one good reason for that: advertising. The way America tends to advertise reflects a “buy more, have more, be more” culture; whereas French advertising draws on the “less is more,” “quality over quantity” attitude.
While a booming economy is vital to the health of any country, it’s not far-fetched to say Americans often fall prey to profit-hungry companies. That kind of rampant consumption doesn’t just drain wallets, it produces waste, waste that has to go somewhere. It also creates a culture of materialism that leaves you unhappy and takes advantage of retail therapy habits.
So it is advertising’s responsibility to consider moral obligation? Is France’s bi-annual sale model the happy medium between unapologetic consumerism and sustainable shopping? It’s definitely on to something. And you know you’re genuinely getting a good deal, as French vendors are legally required to display original prices, whereas US- retailers have been caught inflating “original prices.” Whichever side of the Atlantic you’re shopping on, hopefully you’re happy with your purchase.