Cash in the attic: A guide to French vide-greniers
- Credit: Archant
Popular throughout France, vide-greniers are the perfect hunting ground for unusual items to furnish your French home. Whether you’re buying or selling, here’s how to make the most of your next visit to the French equivalent of a car boot sale
In France, you know that spring is truly in the air when the vide-grenier season gets underway and signs announcing upcoming events start appearing on roundabouts. The vide-grenier (literally translated as emptying the attic) is the French equivalent of the British car boot sale and they are hugely popular throughout France. They range in size from a few stalls clustered around the mairie to absolutely enormous affairs that are run on sports grounds and car parks, some even taking up the entire village. Most are a day-long event, they are usually held on Sundays and almost all will have food stands serving regional French snack food such as galette saucisse, talo (a Basque flat bread), ventreche, crêpes and of course, les frites! The bigger events often provide a proper sit-down meal for both visitors and participants and on a sunny day, this is a lovely way to sit back and unwind after a hard morning spent bargain hunting.
HOW TO FIND AN EVENT
You may well see signs up in your local area but by far the best way is to check out the nationwide listings website vide-greniers.org. The site is easy to use, you simply choose the timescale (this weekend, this week, upcoming events or a specific month), then your department or region and up pops a listing of all the upcoming dates. Once you've found a vide-grenier or brocante that's reasonably close, you can access further information such as start and finish times, facilities, number of stallholders and so forth. You will also see vide-poussette events advertised and if you have small children these are an ideal way to buy or sell children's toys and clothes and baby equipment. You can even create an email alert to make sure you never miss out!
HOW TO BE A BUYER
Browsing around a vide-grenier is a great way to find unusual items to furnish your French home and it's also a good way to replace everyday household objects. While you may have a specific shopping list, it's a good idea to keep an open mind; the definition of emptying the 'attic' is a fairly loose one and you will come across anything from car tyres to pot plants to old agricultural equipment. In fact, many are a mixture between a car boot sale and une brocante or a flea market-type event with much more of an antiques-based focus.
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Comfortable clothing and footwear is a must; it's surprising just how far you will find yourself walking! If you are into buying clothes, wear garments and shoes that are easy to slip on and off. Take several shopping bags. The lightweight fabric ones that fold into nothing are ideal as they can be stowed away in a handbag or pocket and produced when needed. A small bottle of water is a good idea (shopping can be thirsty work!) but the most important weapon in your vide-grenier kit is money. Lots of it and ideally plenty of change and small notes. Haggling is much easier if you can produce the right money. Taking a cheque book for larger items 'just in case' is a good idea as you never know what you might find.
Stallholders are generally very happy to put things to one side for you once you have paid for them so never hold back from buying something because you are worried you will have to carry it around. And don't hesitate to haggle! Be polite and show an interest first but then decide what the item is worth to you and offer accordingly. It may be that you are happy to pay the asking price but if not, asking "Quel est votre meilleur prix?" is a perfectly okay thing to do.
HOW TO BE A SELLER
Taking part as a seller is just as much fun. It's a great opportunity to have a good clear out and make some extra cash. You'll be amazed out how much stuff you've accumulated! Choosing your vide-grenier wisely is the key to a successful day. If you've been to one before that was sufficiently busy, then that is a great starting point. If not, look at the vide-greniers.org site and make a selection based on the potential number of stallholders. Asking local friends and neighbours is a good idea too. Once you've selected the date and venue, you need to contact the organiser by phone or email to reserve your place. If there's only a mobile number, don't panic, most organisers are more than happy to deal with enquiries by SMS. You will need to give them your name, contact details and an idea of the size of pitch you would like; these are usually reserved by the linear metre. You may also have the choice of an indoor or outdoor pitch.
HOW TO PREPARE
Like many things in France, organising and taking part in a vide-grenier is regulated and individuals are only permitted to take part in two events per year and sell used personal items. The organiser will ask you to sign a form stating that you have not taken part in two other events and they usually do this when collecting your fee.
On the day you will need to arrive bright and early. Most start at 7 or 8am and arriving early makes life easier in terms of vehicle access and setting up your stall. Buyers arrive equally early and the first hour can be very hectic with people wanting to buy things almost before you have unloaded!
Pack the car the night before and make sure you have everything you need. Signs are essential and a supply of cardboard and marker pens will enable you to quickly adjust prices during the day. We usually place a large box of free items at the front of the stall with a large sign saying 'Servez-vous' and this works brilliantly to attract people to the stall. You can top the box up during the day and it's also a great way of disposing of anything you don't want to take home. Be realistic with pricing. Selling items at low prices will attract buyers and if your goods are cheap enough people will often buy large amounts as they feel they are getting a bargain. We divide the stall into sections and price everything in the section at the same price with only high-value items being priced separately. This makes life simpler and lets you get on with enjoying your day out as a brocanteur!