“It’s good to be back”: bargain hunters and bargain hunters invade the streets of Lille

LILLE: “It feels good to be there”: whether they come “to find the rare pearl”, “to negotiate good prices” or just “to feast”, hundreds of thousands of “bargain hunters” invaded the streets of Lille for the great return of the sale, after two years of absence.

07:00, on the “axis of China”, a series of large boulevards reserved for professional second-hand dealers. Already numerous in the bluish dawn, bargain hunters equipped with flashlights cross paths with still tipsy revelers.

“We started at 4:30 a.m. We had to walk, but we found open stands. The sale is back, we wanted to play the game”, enthuses Joëlle Ridolfi, 51, who came from Tongeren to Belgium out of “passion from China”.

In the cart pulled by her husband, their “finds”: a mirror in the shape of the sun and a statuette of a bird. She “likes the variety of things on offer here. “A bit expensive” but “there are special items, which are worth it”.

Varnished clocks, threadbare rocking horse, Art Deco vase… Everywhere in the capital of Flanders, antiques rub shoulders with clothes, crockery, or toys for a few euros. 8,000 exhibitors, including 600 professionals, offer their merchandise on 80 km of stalls, in a secure area completely empty of cars.

“It was really missing”

For 34 hours, from Saturday 8 a.m. to Sunday 6 p.m., the city is transformed into a giant garage sale. Two to three million visitors are expected, after two successive cancellations due to Covid-19.

Shopping carts in hand, many foreign buyers sneak in, like Esther, 50, “who came to find stuff for her two shops in the Netherlands”.

Muen Van Minh, an 18-year-old Vietnamese, inspects a mother-of-pearl table. He is looking for “Chinese art, old and rare objects”. On the neighboring stand, Sally Light, a 32-year-old London antiques dealer, sets her sights on an abstract painting.

“It feels good to be there, it was really missing! We accumulated stock for two years, we have 30 or 40% more stock,” says Breton second-hand dealer Didier Cloarec, 64. “Here, sales are much better than elsewhere. But there is also the clearance sale spirit, this festive side, the mixing of languages”.

Dresses, figurines and video games: in the alleys of Old Lille, the goods are cheaper. Brass bands mingle with the rattle of cutlery set up by restaurateurs. Tens of thousands of gourmets taste the traditional mussels and fries there.

“People’s Festival”

“I’ve already had two fries, today we let go,” jokes the socialist mayor Martine Aubry, seated at the PS stand with former minister Patrick Kanner. Out “as always” at 3:00 p.m., when a short downpour broke out, she wandered around the stands of associations and several political parties, including EELV or the PCF.

Without meeting the leader of the rebellious Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who came to deliver a speech of mobilization for the social return in the afternoon at the Nupes stand, nor the communist Fabien Roussel, passing through the communist stand.

“It’s not a political meeting here, it’s the popular party meeting. I’m very happy that Jean-Luc is coming”, but “I don’t see why I would go see him. I’m going see the people of Lille,” said Ms. Aubry.

The sale, “everyone was waiting for it”. “This return to school is tough. There is inflation, concerns with the war (…) People need to meet and in addition we are really in tune with the times, since we are the most great second-hand, circular economy event”, she rejoiced.

Coming on the advice of her companion from Lille, Isabelle Djama surveyed “all the streets” in search of “good deals”. “Faced with inflation, we are necessarily looking for quality at a lower price,” she explains.

“We have just moved to Lille so we are looking for furniture, decoration. Our apartment is a bit empty, because we do not have a big budget”, adds Martial Philau, 20 years old.

“I buy trinkets for a few cents, or products that I don’t usually afford,” says Sarah Marrer, 24. And after the china, it’s time to party on the terraces open until 2:00 in the morning. Even “all night” for some.

“It’s good to be back”: bargain hunters and bargain hunters invade the streets of Lille