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Balances: What rules for traders in 2018 Business 

Balances: What rules for traders in 2018

Highly expected by consumers, sales are also an opportunity for merchants to part with their unsold products. Two periods, on dates fixed by the regulations, are provided for this purpose. If there is no specific authorization to obtain, the regulations on balances are particularly strict.


The main rule to follow is:

– the balances can only relate to items that have already been offered for sale,

– and which were paid to the supplier at least one month before the beginning of the sales.

They may relate to goods from previous years provided that they meet the two preceding conditions. As a result, stores can not offer special series or restock their inventory during the sales period. However, traders are allowed to sell at a loss during these periods.

We see more and more private sales offered by shops a few days of sales. Since merchants are not allowed to use the word “balances” in the month preceding their official opening, they carry out promotions with the aim of destocking, by offering their items to a limited clientele (eg holder of a card fidelity). These events are permitted under the heading of private sales or destocking promotions .

It is also possible to keep shelf items unsold after the sales period, provided they do not advertise and show on the label that the selling price now applied.

About labeling, the base price, ie the lowest price displayed by the establishment, must be indicated and the reduced price must be announced. Regarding the discount made, it must be calculated on the reference price. This element is particularly controlled, the trader having to be able to justify the displayed reference price . Finally, it is forbidden not to apply the price reductions displayed in the window, this practice falling within the framework of misleading advertising. Specificity of online sales, the site must mention the duration of the promotional offer.


These two 6-week periods are spread over the year, the winter sales starting on the 2nd Wednesday of January and the summer sales starting on the last Wednesday of June. Some border territories have derogatory dates (Alpes-Maritimes, Corsica, Meurthe-et-Moselle-Vosges and Pyrenees Orientales, as well as the DOM-COM and TOM (except Mayotte) .The sites of online sale must respect the same dates of sales.


Regarding returns for refund or exchange, customers benefit from the same guarantees in case of non-apparent manufacturing defect and after-sales service, but the merchant has no obligation of recovery if the customer retracts or in case of size problem. Conversely, on the Internet, customers keep, as for open items, the withdrawal period of 14 days running from delivery.


The use of the word “balance (s)” is very controlled : any use outside of a transaction of official sale, to designate any activity, name, trade name or sign exposes the merchant to a fine of 15 000 € for a natural person or € 75,000 for a legal entity . The amount of the fine is the same for balances on items held for less than one month.

Finally, any advertising on balances not mentioning the start date of the transaction, and the nature of the items sold if the balances do not affect all products, is punishable by a fine of € 1,500.


In recent years, we see more and more promotional offers organized outside sales periods. These take the form of online promotions, private sales, Cyber ​​Monday, Black Friday, etc. A study by CCI Paris Ile-de-France revealed that 61% of merchants had organized private sales before June 2017, ie the start of summer sales. Shopkeepers thus meet a clientele more sensitive to these promotions throughout the year. The consequence is of course a decrease in the impact of balances .


Faced with the demand of traders wishing to advance winter balances to the nearest New Year’s Day , the government announced this summer the opening of a consultation.

On January 10, 2018, a press release presented the results of the trade consultation commission on this subject. Thus, from 2019, the sales will last 4 weeks, against 6 today . This reduction in the duration of balances responds to the demand of merchants, who wanted to 62% this reduction according to the study of the ICC. The main reason given is insufficient stocks to last 6 weeks. The goal is also to increase the impact of balances by focusing them on a shorter time. The announcement finally announces the opening of a reflection on the organization of a “black friday” in particular to stimulate sales of local shops over two or three days.

On the other hand, we observe for several years a change in consumption habits in terms of sales : according to a survey conducted by Ifop for the site Spartoo, 45% of French consider that the place to achieve the best deals is Internet followed by shopping malls (23%) followed by downtown shopping (14%). The budget estimate of expenditure of the French remains the same as that of last year (195 €).

The issue of shortening the duration of balances , which will come into effect in 2019, is to increase the impact of the latter by avoiding their dilution throughout the year, because for traders, balances are essential to allow them to sell goods to make room for future collections, avoiding losses related to too large stocks.

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