I receive a lot of emails about shopping for various luxury items in Europe, so thought I’d finally get it together and put together a few posts. Today, I’ll address the most commonly asked about topic – shopping for Hermes items in Paris.
Even when the euro was at a high point against the dollar in 2011, it was still cheaper to purchase many luxury brands in Paris. Now, the weak euro in combination with a broader range of inventory available to “walk ins” means that Hermes remains as popular a destination for shoppers as ever.
Even though Hermes is one of the premier luxury brands in the world, the flagship store on Rue St. Honore Faubourg (FSH) as consistently mobbed, and can be a stressful experience for someone expecting a quieter shopping outing. Here, in order, are my tips for a visitor to Paris who would like a successful visit to the store (whether success just means having fun, or leaving with a coveted item).
First, I’d suggest that you:
1. Enjoy the art of browsing and shopping. The Hermes flagship store is such a beautiful space, with multiple levels and areas to browse through jewelry, leather accessories, home goods, silks, and more. There are always pieces there which I’ve never found in my local store. My favorite shopping memories in Paris always involve stumbling across an item that I never expected but which I just love (my Soie Cool bag is an example). Even if you’re on a quest for a specific item, I’d still take the time on an initial visit just to wander around the shop a bit, and check out all of the goodies. If you love design, you can’t help but be inspired. And plus, you’ll never know what will strike you, and then you’ll have such a good story for friends who ask about the item – “I got it in Paris!”.
Okay, that’s all fair and good…but maybe you’re visiting Hermes for a specific reason, no? Maybe it’s for a popular style bag…and it begins with a B or K? In that case, I would advise you to:
2. Ask politely for what you want. Notice that I included the word “politely”. Because I have witnessed some very, very rude customer behavior while at FSH. Sometimes I’ve gone home and Googled photos of various dictators and their entourages because I’ve been fairly that I have just had an up close encounter. In these situations, I find myself silently hoping for a reverse Pretty Woman situation – put that bully in their place, French sales heroine/hero!
Anyway, as I’m sure you are all polite, kind people, here’s my advice when you encounter a friendly sales associate: ask for what you want. I receive a lot of emails about how to play the “game” at Hermes – what to buy, how much to spend, what to say. I won’t go as far to say that luxury brands don’t play these types of games, but I personally have never experienced it at FSH. I’ve never been pressured to buy anything that I haven’t asked for, and our sales associate has stopped many a sale in its tracks by providing me with her honest opinion.
At the end of the day, Hermes is a luxury goods purveyor that specializes in…selling you items that you hopefully will want and treasure. So remember: you’re there to buy items that you’ll love. It’s a store, not a job interview.
Okay. So you’re in FSH, you decided you want a leather bag, and you don’t have a regular sales associate. You’re either in another part of the shop, or in the leather goods section. You ask someone for help. At this point, you either will be helped by that person, passed along with a sales associate specializing in leather goods, or asked to join:
3. The queue (cue ominous music). Yes, sometimes when you arrive at FSH, there will be a line. I would say 50% of the time when I visit, there’s a line in the leather goods (handbags) section. Just for the record, I’ve never seen a line at the other two stores – George V and Sevres. However, I typically am not in Paris during peak holiday/tourist seasons.
Yes, waiting in line is the pits. You expect to wait in line for the newest hipster brunch place, but usually not for a luxury goods shop. However, there are more customers than sales associates, so what can they do? Just remember that being asked to wait in line is not a personal insult towards you (I see a lot of first time visitors huffing and puffing that they have to wait with the rest of us plebes), and it’s just a necessary part of the buying process during peak times.
I’ll usually ask for our regular sales associate and/or make an appointment before we go, and in those cases, one can get around the line. But she isn’t always available, and in those cases I trot over to, and join the line. I usually am in flat shoes (because I’ve walked or taken the Metro over), and if I get tired or thirsty, I just ask someone for some tea or water. They’ll happily bring it over.
When you reach the front of the queue, follow my rule #2 above to ask politely for what you want. If it’s a special occasion or meaningful visit, by all mean let the sales associate know (but I’d recommend against making things up or telling elaborate tales of woe). And then, who knows what you will might end up with!
Above is the very first Kelly bag, which came from yes – FSH in Paris. It was exactly what I wanted, and I hope that when you visit Hermes in Paris, you can leave with a wonderful souvenir as well. So when the time has come and you’re first in the queue, cross your fingers, and even if it’s bad news, always be pleasant. After all, even if you don’t leave with your coveted item right away, you never know what may come in the future. It never hurts to be kind, patient, and polite.
And my final step:
4. Please, enjoy Paris! I really feel regretful when I read emails from people who have spent their vacation in Paris chasing after an Hermes bag. Really, sometimes the stars align and everything works out, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you don’t leave with your dream item in a big orange bag. But really, you’re on a dream vacation! Go enjoy the food, see the sights, do some shopping and discover new boutiques. You’ll leave Paris with at the very least, a wonderful time, a full stomach, lovely memories and then if you do add a little orange box, it’ll just be the icing on top.
I hope this was helpful for some of you heading to Paris! I’ll try to add more of these posts in the future, and if you have any requests, feel free to leave in the comments or message me.
By the way: use these three links to find out directions, phone numbers, and hours to each of the three Hermes Paris shops. And don’t forget it to check on holidays!
Hermes FSH : Location, hours, and address information
Hermes George V : Location, hours, and address information
Hermes Sevres : Location, hours, and address information