Les Soldes – Semi Annual Sale Season in France

Les Soldes. BHV.

From June 22 – July 26, France is on sale. Twice a year French retailers are given the green light from the state to have Les Soldes, or sale season. With the Euro and most items at a whopping 30% off, shoppers can look forward to paying what is retail in other parts of the world.

Nonetheless, it’s serious business. It’s madness. Parisiennes flock in droves. Printemps is a zoo.

Commoners peruse a few days prior, screening styles, mapping routes, and nailing down sizing to streamline d-day. VIP’s fly in, are whisked between stores by drivers, get their Louis Vuitton on and collect fat VAT refunds before leaving the country.

Like boxing day or Black Friday, discounts range from 30% – 60% off, with large retailers holding extended shopping hours the first few days (the only time I can shop in Paris after 8pm). Most everything but staples are marked down, although screaming bargains are few and far between. The best deals are on clearance racks; the last pair of shoes in an odd size in an interesting colour that have been slashed 70%.

Unlike boxing day or Black Friday, you won’t see shops with loss leading door-crashers for the first few people in queue. Or people camped out in sleeping bags.

When the dust settles in 2 or 3 weeks, another round of markdowns comes for items left behind. For savvy shoppers, this is when the real bargains can be had.

To restore harmony in the retail world, next year’s Mens summer collection is being shown at Paris Fashion Week, which runs parallel with the start of Les Soldes. A curious bunch of stylites and fashionistas are in town getting the lowdown on S/S 12. The Sartorialist is here. Fashion bloggers unite.

It’s Christmas in June.

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Bike Sharing in Paris – Vélib Life

Vélib Life

You can’t help but feel slightly awesome when hopping on the Vélib. Vélib is Paris’ bike sharing system, and like many other bike sharing programs in cities across Europe, you pick up a bike and drop it off at any of stations scattered throughout the city for free within 30 (or 45) minutes. It’s perfect for leisurely rides, trekking home after the metro closes, exploring new areas and escaping the sauna-esque metro in the summer.

I was a bit hesitant the first time I got on the Vélib, given the erratic nature of the French drivers. Not to mention the jaw dropping 6 lane roundabouts at République or Arc de Triomphe. But this was quickly subsided with the numerous semi-designated bike lanes, paths and lack of cars (there really aren’t that many cars on the road).

The best part is it only costs 29€ for a year’s subscription, making it a no-brainer if you’re in Paris for any extended period of time.

However, the bikes only have 3 speeds, which has stopped me from reaching Lance Armstrong speeds and bombing down the Champs-Élysées. And if you’re smaller, the bikes can be a bit heavy and seating is somewhat awkward.

Vélib recently launched a straightforward online registration process and if you’re between 14 – 26, you get an extra 15 minutes free, increasing the total free time to 45 minutes. Sweet!

For tourists and shorter jaunts, daily or weekly passes can be purchased at any Vélib station. Warning: these stations only accept credit cards with chip + pin.

Don’t think you’re going to see many people with aerodynamic neon coloured spandex and Oakleys though:

Leave the spandex at home

Maybe something like this:

Place Vendôme

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Travel Essentials: Packing like a Pro

One skill I’ve picked up by flying with RyanAir and traveling by TGV is packing carry-on luggage efficiently. For weekend getaways or week long excursions, there really is no need to use anything larger than a carry-on. Plus, not getting nickel and dimed by Ryanair €15 feels awesome.

Even on my transatlantic voyage, I realized I was wasting tons of space packing the “traditional” way. Using the method in the video, I ended up being so space efficient I nearly tipped the scales at the check-in counter since I had so much extra space.

For every business traveler, packing a suit jacket:

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Semester Wrap Up

What a whirlwind 4 months it’s been. I still vividly recall the days spent holed up in Hotel Armstrong in the 20th (which has the best dining room music and punch-card room keys).

Now classes have ended, a farewall cocktail is planned and the inevitable goodbyes loom in the horizon.

Given the end of classes, I figure it’s the best time to reflect on my courseload. I chose classes that were interesting and unique to ESCP, which means they probably won’t transfer back neatly.

My Courseload

Strategic Marketing – One of the most practical courses I’ve ever taken. We used Markstrat, a marketing simulation where teams selling Sonite and Vodite products compete for global domination over 9 periods. I’m a bit of an analytics junky, but being overloaded with information challenged me to analyze only the most information to refine our strategy and tactics.

Positional Bargaining: Negotiation Workshop – Definitely recommended. While we started off with cases that had a few points to mull over, we eventually moved onto the final behemoth of a case which had 10+ points to negotiate, leading to a very dynamic discussion. The class is completely student driven so what you give is what you get. Being the one of the lead negotiators for 3/3 cases meant a lot of preparation before the hard fought international battles to reach a collective win-win outcome for both parties. Nothing like celebrating over a beer with your arch rivals in the ESCP courtyard after class.

Business Law – An informative look at the American and British business environment and its relationship with the law. It’s definitely advantageous to be exposed to the different legal systems and business implications given the global nature of ESCP.

Buying Your Own Business – While I wanted to love the course, I felt it was to short to deep dive into any topic. As a 5 week “sampler” course, the professor scratched the surface on many topics but didn’t go in depth in any. My key takeaway was a better understanding of the sale process in small/midsize business and the buyer/seller emotions. You really need to be a little bit crazy to be an entrepreneur!

European Integration & Management – A crash course seminar giving insight into the political, social and economic forces that’s shaped Paris (and Europe). This is mandatory for everyone that studies at ESCP and it was very interesting to see alternative management philosophies and cultural differences between Vancouver/Canada and Paris/France.

International Consulting – A short but succinct course giving an overview of international consulting and some consulting methodologies. While there were some interesting sessions by former consultants, what I really enjoyed was working on an optional consulting project. Being paired up with 3 other ESCP students and 4 MBA students from the Technion university in Israel to research and analyze innovative Greentech for use in Paris and Tel-Aviv/Haifa has been very interesting.

Sleeper Courses

The Big Management Fads: Tools and Lessons – Despite the slightly ridiculous name, one of the professors for this class only teaches the EMBA program and is an former management consultant. From what I’ve heard, it’s actually a very interesting course.

Should We Manage Young People And Seniors With The Same Approach? An Insight For Managing People And Understanding Consumers – Yes, you read it correctly. Imagine this gem on your CV. Instahire.

The Best Class I Never Took

Stratégie et Marketing des Industries du Luxe

Stratégie et Marketing des Industries du Luxe – Taught by Christian Blanckaert. Need I say more? I heard that he would be critiquing shops inside Printemps so I dropped by to see what the fuss was about. The man commands such a presence while effortlessly deconstructing a shop’s customer experience, all from a mere glance. While the course is taught exclusively in French, I’m confident this course, moreso Christian Blanckaert, will at least peak anyone’s interest in luxury marketing.

What I love about the course system at ESCP is the flexibility. Some courses run until the first half of the semester and others start midway during the semester. On the other hand, course registration is not done online, but manually. While you choose courses on the intranet, somebody manually registers you into these courses depending on space, prerequisites etc. This means not knowing what your courses you’re in until the very beginning of the semester.

Sidenote: My post on Why I Chose ESCP Europe has been featured on ESCP Europe. While completely unexpected, I have to admire ESCP’s brand management.

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Why I Chose ESCP Europe

Being 1 of the 4 students chosen to study at ESCP Europe this spring (1 of 2 this semester, 1 of 4 the entire year) has made me appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given even more.

Formerly ESCP-EAP, now ESCP Europe

When I chose where I wanted to go on exchange I considered things like the city, school reputation, coursework, night life, cultural experience, cost of living etc.

But for me, the choice was easy. In fact, ESCP Europe was the only school I applied to for exchange. I chose it for these 3 reasons: Professional Development, Academic Development and Personal Development.

Professional Development
When I applied for exchange (January 2010), ESCP Europe was ranked #3 in the world for its Masters in Management program by Financial Times. When I arrived (January 2011), it was ranked #1. It was important to me to be in an institution with high caliber, like-minded individuals. In addition, the amount of networking and on-campus recruiting events have been plentiful. ESCP Europe is unique because its a dedicated graduate business school, which means the school is 100% focused on business.

Academic Development
ESCP has boatloads of options. Courses like “Investment Banking and Financial Engineering” to “Positional Bargaining: Negotiation Workshop” were interesting courses I could only dream of taking back home. Not only this, but many of the professors have impressive industry backgrounds to. For example, the professor for “Strategy and Marketing the Luxury Industry” (albeit in French) was the former Chairman and CEO of Hermès Sellier.

What amazes me the most is the amount of classroom diversity. With ESCP’s 5 campuses in Paris, London, Madrid, Turin and Berlin, its easy for students to cycle between campus’. Its quite interesting to have a group project in “Buying your own Business” when three of your teammates have already worked in M&A, all in different countries. This kind of academic collaboration has been eye-opening for me and helped develop my global perspective.

Personal Development
Coming from Vancouver, I wanted to experience life in a metropolitan city. ESCP Europe is directly in the city of Paris. Paris is gorgeous. While I’m starting to feel settled in, I feel like I could spend years here and still have nooks to discover. The sheer volume and depth of arts and culture, history, monuments and museums is mighty impressive. Not to mention cities like Nice, Lille, Lyon, Grenoble all a short train ride away, its hard to complain.

Things like finding an apartment, living in a city where English isn’t the primary language and taking masters levels classes has moved me beyond my comfort zone. It definitely isn’t for everyone.

To me, ESCP Europe is the triple threat. I highly encourage anyone with the possibility to apply to ESCP Europe (Paris) to do so. Its been one of the best decisions I’ve made my entire life bar-none. Perhaps my only regret is not coming here sooner and staying for 2 semesters instead of 1. A semester here is definitely to short!

There’s no question that I’ll return to Paris sometime. Maybe for work, maybe for fun, but I’ll definitely be back.

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Rejection

I haven’t posted in a while, which is unusual for me. Maybe this post will explain some of what I’ve been experiencing.

I recently stumbled upon this blog entry and an excerpt of a story about the history of Rocky …

(via. http://believetowealth.blogspot.com/2011/02/frustration-rejection-sylvester.html)

One of the most inspiring stories regarding rejection and frustration is the story of Sylvester Stallone. Since he had been very young, Stallone had wanted to star in movies. He had had a difficult childhood and had grown up in Hell’s Kitchen, a rough neighborhood in New York City. He wanted to make movies because he felt that it was a way to inspire people about what they were capable of.

Stallone tried to get parts in movies and was rejected continually. He was told that he looked funny, that he talked out of the side of his mouth and sounded funny. Stallone’s voice and the way he looks have to do with his head being pulled out with forceps when he was born. The forceps severed a nerve and caused paralysis in parts of Stallone’s face, which caused his slurred speech and drooping lower lip. From a young age, Stallone was handicapped to some extent. He attended a high school for problem children and after graduating he enrolled in beauty school.

One of Stallone’s first feature films was a soft-core pornography movie called “Party at Kitty and Stud’s”, which Stallone did in 1970. He was paid $200 for two days work.

As he tried to advance in the acting field, Stallone was told ‘no’ by agents again and again. He was apparently thrown out of agency offices in New York more than 1,500 times. There were not even 1,500 agents in New York at the time, but Stallone had gone to many of the agents’ offices multiple times–even after being thrown out.

Stallone got his first job by going to an agent’s office and spending an entire night there. He arrived at 4:00 pm and the agent refused to see him. When the agent came back the next morning he saw that Stallone was still waiting there, and he gave him a job. Stallone’s first gig was playing a thug that got beaten up. Despite landing this small role and a few others, the aspiring actor still did not have money to eat, and he could not even afford to heat his apartment during the cold New York winter.

Stallone’s wife at the time kept telling him to go out and get a real job, something that did not involve acting; however, he refused to do so because he was afraid that if he took a normal job he would lose his hunger to succeed in acting. Stallone felt that this hunger gave him an edge, and made him stronger. Stallone and his wife would have one horrible fight after another because he was so broke.

One day Stallone went to the New York Public Library, where it was warm. He had no plans to read anything; he just wanted to escape the chill of his apartment. He stumbled onto a book by Edgar Allen Poe and started reading it. According to Stallone, reading Poe’s work inspired him right then and there to become a writer. Stallone believes that Poe helped him learn to emotionally influence others by not focusing on himself, but by looking at people and the world around him.

Stallone went on to write a movie script called Paradise Alley, which he sold for only $100. Meanwhile, he was so broke that he sold his wife’s jewelry, which officially ended their relationship. The only thing that Stallone had had left at this point in his life was his dog. He loved his dog for the unconditional love it provided him, even though he had no money; this was more than Stallone could say for his wife at the time.

Stallone one day stood in front of a liquor store, trying to sell his dog. He eventually located a man who wanted to make the purchase. Stallone had hoped to sell the dog for $50, but the buyer refused to pay this much and only offered $25. Stallone sold the dog at the lower price, and walked away crying. According to Stallone, this was the lowest point in his life.

A few weeks later Stallone watched Muhammad Ali fight Chuck Wepner. The fight inspired Stallone. That evening Stallone went home and, in three short days, he wrote the script for Rocky. Stallone tried to sell the script and was rejected numerous times. Finally, he found two men, Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler, who really liked the script. They offered him $125,000; but Stallone refused and stated that he would only accept this money if he could star in the movie. The producers did not want Stallone to star in the movie because he was an unknown actor. A couple of weeks later they offered him $250,000 if he would not star in the movie, and once again he refused. Later the producers offered Stallone $325,000, and he turned this down as well. Stallone felt that Rocky was his story and that it was incredibly important for him to play the lead role.

Eventually, the producers offered him $35,000 and allowed him to play the part in the movie. They would also give Stallone a share of the profits. Ultimately the movie cost $1,000,000 to make and ended up grossing over $200,000,000–and winning an Oscar. Stallone said that right before he received the Oscar, he had read every rejection he had ever received and all of the negative things that people had ever said about him, because he had written it all down. One of my favorite quotes is from Stallone: “I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.”

Incredibly, the first thing Stallone did when he received the $35,000 was go immediately to the liquor store, hoping to get his dog back. He stood in front of the liquor store for three days waiting for the man to appear. Stallone first offered $100 and then more and more money until he offered to pay $1,000. The man still refused to sell the dog back. Finally, Stallone offered the man $15,000 of the $35,000 he received, and he got his dog back. The dog that is featured in Rocky is Stallone’s dog.

There is nothing wrong with failing. Stallone failed many times early on, and has since left a legacy of one of the most inspiring and fantastic movies ever written and produced. If you do not succeed the first time, just look at what went wrong and change it. Frustration and rejection make you stronger. Doing something and failing is better than doing nothing. At least by trying you will learn a lesson. Learning a lesson is among the most valuable experiences you can have.

Rejection is a numbers game. The more you are rejected, the closer you are to success. Let the law of averages work on your behalf, and never give up what you are doing. You need to push through in order to succeed, and to not worry about all the no(s) you are receiving. Each no will bring you closer to a yes. Put your emotions and negative feelings about being rejected behind you.

Life is often frustrating, and the road to success is also often frustrating. Your ability to handle this frustration and rejection, however, will ultimately determine the level of success you will experience. Imagine if Stallone had stopped early on when he experienced frustration and rejection.

Work through frustration and rejection, and never stop moving forward.

I came to Paris with the intention of experiencing three things mentioned in my blog a year ago:

1) The Learning!

I’ve learned that education has to be relevant. Taking and accepting what you’re given is usually not going to lead to best results or passion-driven work. Focus is important. I’m definitely a big-picture person, qualitative over quantitative, and a lover not a worker.

I think I’ve caught my big break. That transition from Early Childhood and Life to Early Career (for all those Wikiheads :p) is definitely in motion, as I’m starting to work collaboratively on a consulting project with one of the world’s leading experts in international technology transfer and business intelligence.

Still plan to hold down those transcript marks. But laying the foundations for my global network takes precedence.

2) The Opportunities!

Bringing back that Stallone article. My obsessive compulsion towards internship applications definitely has been apparent during my first two months here. Applying to 1oo+ online/on-campus applications, receiving 75 rejection letters to date (with 2-3 on average arriving in my inbox daily), and receiving 2 offers in London and Paris respectively. It’s been good times ~!

3) The City!

After waiting in line for an hour, chugging a bottle of JD with some new Parisian friends, and getting inadvertently bare-maced due to crowd control I finally got to see Skrillex perform for the first time at a Paris Nightclub.

Walking out of the club at 5AM with more energy than when I walked in, I couldn’t help but soak in the city atmosphere. Pubs were still open. I could make out new friendships being made on restaurant patios over the obligatory Parisian smoke, and of course hook-ups were still being devised. It’s interesting to think of the lost-time in N. American culture by closing off these late night “connections”.

Truth be told. I don’t think it’s Paris that particularly appeals to me, but moreso the change of scenery. If all goes to plan, Ill be back in July and stay til December.

This exchange is just an appetizer.

I’m hungry and it ain’t for food.

James

James Avendano studied at ESCP Europe’s Master in Management program on exchange in Spring 2011 and has written a series of guest posts here. Check him out on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Flat Finding Flashbacks in Paris

Finding a flat is always fun. Finding a flat in Paris? Even funner. It’s been a little over a month since me and James moved into our apartment and February was a complete whirlwind thereafter. January was both mentally and physically draining since we were running to multiple apartment viewings and attending the first few weeks of classes. Not to mention living out of our suitcases in a hotel. Since ESCP Europe is in Paris, there are no student dorms available, ala every other university not in Paris. While Residence Vivaldi, a huge housing complex with an agreement with ESCP, was an option, I thought I’d have a richer experience finding a place on my own. And it was awesome.

Searching for an Apartment

Important things to figure out:

  1. Monthly budget – Paris is not cheap!
  2. Where you want to stay – Not all places in Paris are good, or close to school.
  3. When you want to move in – We arrived on the 13th of January.

Me and James had an initial budget of 600E/month and preferred something in the 3rd or 4th. We eventually increased our budget to 750E/month and expanded our search into the 3/4/5/6/8/9/10/11 arrondissements. I’d recommend avoiding the 18 – 20th if possible, which are not great areas. Depending on when you want to move in (immediately? Beginning of the month?) also factors into what’s possible. We also set a deadline for the end of the month to move in (anywhere).

Best Places to find an Apartment:

  1. ESCP Intranet – Definitely one of the best/safest options. Many flats available near the school
  2. Fusac – Lots of quality postings we followed up with
  3. Craigslist – Tons of Nigerian scammers! We eventually found the apartment we moved into here
  4. American Church in Paris – Didn’t follow up with any options here but some friends found their places through here
  5. Pap.fr or Seloger – Hugely popular with the French locals so you’re at a big disadvantage. Many agencies/landlords are looking to rent for upwards of 6 months

Predeparture Options:

Residence Vivaldi – I haven’t heard the best things about the facilities and rooms here. Although, they might be the best bet if you can score something for 400E/month.
CIUP – A bit far from the school, but basically dorm style rooms that you with people from Canada. It fills up fast!

Untested Options:

Various vacation rental sites/Parisattitude etc. – Definitely on the pricier side and sometimes it didn’t make sense for 4+ months.

I recommend setting up a spreadsheet to track everything. Sometimes we didn’t know which apartment an email was responding to since we contacted so many listings. If you’re willing to pay agency fees, you can definitely get an apartment faster. Since we were  adventurous, we decided to make it our goal to avoid paying agency fees (up to a months rent!). Finding accommodations for 2 people (not a couple) is exponentially more difficult than finding accommodations for a couple or a single person. Very few places have two separate beds or a sofa bed. We even considered buying a futon/sofabed for some apartments.

Setting up Viewings

Always call if you can; apparently landlords receive 30 – 50 emails after posting online. It definitely helps to speak French or have someone make calls in French on your behalf. I was also sending emails in French and English to make things easier for the landlord.

Apartment Viewings

This was one thing I didn’t account for sucking up so much time. Not only was I exploring the area the apartment was in, but I was at at the whim of the landlords schedule – be prepared for numerous last minute cancellations or reschedulings. Some of the neighbourhoods I walked around were not high on livability – ie lack of Boulangeries/Boucheries/Supermarkets. Some neighbourhoods weren’t for me. A place near Trocadero – and the Eiffel tower – was to touristy and expensive (daily) to live for 4+ months; although a week there probably would’ve been nice.

Signs you’re in a good area:

  1. Canada Goose down jackets. Wildly popular.
  2. Hip parents and stylish kids. Kids are fashion accessories. No joke.
  3. Cobblestone streets. Luxurious.
  4. Dressed up little dogs.  To have another mouth to feed & the space for a pet in Paris? $$
  5. McDonalds that serve hamburger shaped macaroons. Only the finest McD’s stock these.

Making an Offer

You’d be crazy to try to negotiate on price. As a student looking for a short term rental with minimal paperwork, we were in a weak position to negotiate. All we could was say was that we were interested and that they would get back to us. At times it felt like if they “liked” me then I would be at an advantage, so be extra friendly when viewing! Sometimes we were simply outgunned – other people wanted the apartment longer and we couldn’t compete.

Multiple Offers

Since landlords have their own schedules, sometimes they’ll accept your offer and want you to move through the paperwork immediately. This happened to us a couple of times and it was difficult to give a definite answer since we were holding out for another apartment. On the flipside, we were telling multiple landlords that we were interested in moving into their apartments. Always hedge your bets.

Signing the Paperwork

If you get a landlord that doesn’t need a French guarantor and the last 5 years of employment history you’re in luck! Try to get the housing contract read by a French person if you can. Ask if you can get CAF (housing assistance from the French government) or if you can use the contract to setup a bank account. Sometimes since you’ll be renting from a renter, so they’ll need to provide a letter attesting that they’re accommodating you from xxxx to xxxx to be able to setup a bank account.

Life Lessons Learned

  • Don’t wait for perfect. After a while we were indifferent to the likability of the apartment. It became “could we live here or not?”
  • Expand your horizons. We considered an unfurnished apartment and buying all the furniture since rent was ridiculously low
  • Hedge your bets. We were setting up viewings for apartments up until the day we moved in. Even after verbal confirmation.
  • Nothings a sure thing. We were 90% we were going to sign the papers for one apartment but at the 26th hour the landlord went with another offer
  • Expect randomness. Last minute cancellations, reschedulings and getting beat by other offers eventually became expected

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