LOOK: French shoppers strip down to get free clothes

by Ivor Bennett, Reuters

Posted at Jan 09 2014 12:22 PM | Updated as of Jan 09 2014 08:30 PM

People in their underwear search for clothes at a Desigual store on the first day of winter sales in Paris, France, January 8, 2014. Photo by Christian Hartmann, Reuters

PARIS - French shoppers bared the cold and themselves as they stripped down to their underwear in a bid to win free clothes.

Spanish brand Desigual was offering a free outfit to the first 100 scantily-clad customers through its doors - as the winter sale season kicked off in France.

"Everything is really expensive here so the fact it's free is amazing. Students don't have any money," Estelle, one of the shoppers, said.

Naked or not, shoppers were out in force in Paris.

Reductions of up to 50 percent enticing cash-strapped consumers hungry for a bargain.

As the French economy stalls, and unemployment soars, demand this sale season is expected to be high.

"The economic crisis makes people savvy with their spending. That means when spending power is under pressure you can't just spend freely so people try to optimise the use of their spending power. You have people who play for time, who save, who put off necessary purchases to be able to spend during the sales," said retail analyst Philippe Moati.

There were fears that internet deals and pre-christmas promotions would take the shine off the annual rush.

But according to polls, the average shopper will spend 225 euros this year - a similar figure to 2013.

The winter sales are big business in France - and not just for customers, but retailers too.

"When the season hasn't been very good, even if the end of the year was about right for the clothing industry, but globally the tendency is for a recoil of the market, that's an important moment because you're hoping to get rid of unsold stock and maybe save the whole year," Moati said.

Sales are tightly controlled in France. The start and end dates are set by the government.

Against an increasingly gloomy economic backdrop, many see it as their one chance to splurge. Many retailers may see that as something which should perhaps be changed.