Your great-great-great-great-great-grandfather’s Labor Day sale

“The Big One-Day Retail Sale is dead.” If someone told me that, I’d find it quite plausible. Between “Low Prices All the Time” and, I wouldn’t expect a frugal (American) consumer to wait for a sale to purchase something. You might wait for the next generation of a gadget, or check prices all over, but to wait for a big sale with a specific date in the future?

When I see an ad for a one-day sale, I assume it’s little more than a scam to create false urgency.

Oh, there’s Black Friday, of course. (And Woot, I guess.) But even the post-holiday sales have been lackluster for years. The upcoming Labor Day sales seem more like an excuse for lazy advertising than a real chance to score a bargain.

“Not so, in Luxembourg,” I was told, by several Luxembourgers. “You must go to the Braderie on Monday. Stuff is really cheap. All the stores will have bargains.” All the stores? You mean that they cooperate and all have sales on the same day? “Yes,” they said, “It’s always the same. Go to the Ville-Haute.”

The Braderie isn’t such a bizarre idea. Say you’re a shopkeeper in the city center, selling nice women’s clothes and competing with the big box stores on the periphery. “I’ll have a sale,” you think. “I’ll put a bunch of my stock out on the sidewalk, at really good prices.”

But how to bring in the shoppers? In any given week, only a small proportion of Luxembourgers will walk past your shop. Advertising helps a little, but will people make a special trip just to see your overstock? Plus, this is Luxembourg — it will probably rain. Who would come then?

The answer: Everyone will come, if they know that every store in a walkable area will have a sale. Especially if the food shops serve inexpensive beer, champagne and sausages on the street. And if, on that day, you’re bound to encounter friends and family from all over the country, because they want high fashion and cheap food, too.

It’s just a matter of picking that day. And one day for that, in Luxembourg, is the second Monday of Schueberfouer. (It’s not the only one. There’s also New Coat Sunday.)

Fortunately, it wasn’t raining when I visited the shops of the city center this Monday. (If you’d like a multimedia experience, has a video report in French.) There were thousands of people strolling among the tents on the streets. There were banks and charitable foundations and radio stations and newspaper publishers, giving away gewgaws and handing out brochures. There were lots of signs announcing markdowns of 60% and 80%. The big shops, like M&S, didn’t seem as committed to the idea, but hardly any stores appeared to be doing business as usual.

It’s a good thing, this Braderie. Sure, it’s materialistic and all that, but it’s the most civic-minded One-Day Sale I’ve ever seen.

I didn’t buy anything. I didn’t really need anything that was on sale, which was mostly women’s clothing and shoes anyway. I don’t think one goes to Braderie expecting to find something in particular, and I wasn’t in a browsing mood. But I don’t think the shopkeepers of the city center were depending on me, this Monday.

By the way, this tradition — which strongest in Lille, but also exists in Belgium and the Netherlands — is thought to originate centuries ago in the Middle Ages, naturellement.

3 Comments to “Your great-great-great-great-great-grandfather’s Labor Day sale”

  1. Doug said...
    16 September 2010


  2. Ed Le Canard said...
    20 September 2010

    Way cool man :)

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Seasonal Fruits | thebeetgoeson