In the Middle Ages Troyes was the prosperous capital of La Champagne. At that time, with it being half-way between Flanders and Italy, merchants used to come from all over Europe to sell their materials and silks. This commercial aspect never really left the town, but simply moved with the times. The markets have left the squares in the centre of town to settle at the town gates, not far from the motorways – and are now called factory shops.
In line with the glorious textile past of this town, universally-known brands including Lacoste, Petit-Bateau, and Absorba-Poron, started life in Troyes. In the 1960s, rudimentary shops began to appear in the many red brick factories of the town, just a short distance from the looms, shops which at first were designed to sell ends of lines just to the staff, who could buy them at reduced prices. Following strong demand, the shop doors were then thrown open to the public who rushed to buy the goods. This led to the era of factory shop outlets that we know today.
It's in Troyes that the phenomenon of factory shops first came about. Each year, two million visitors flood into the extremely modern shopping outlets where the big brands and some designer goods are on average 30% to 50% cheaper.
The factory shops sell clothes, shoes and leather goods designed for everyone, from Nike to Laura Ashley, Boss to Kenzo, and Yves St-Laurent to Jean-Paul Gaultier. Twice a year, when the sales are on, there's a tremendous rush as the prices are even more staggering. Sales during January and six weeks in June-July can save up to 70% off clothes and soft furnishings.
Marques Avenue, at Saint-Julien-les-Villas, opened in 1993. Since then new buildings, all with huge car parks, have been added. This complex now has 27,000 square metres of shop floor entirely devoted to bargains, including 110 manufacturers and 200 major brands. There are four giant ‘‘sheds’’, with a special "shed" for household goods including luxury glass and chinaware.
Normal opening hours: Monday 2pm-7pm. Tuesday to Friday 10am-7pm. Saturday 9.30am-7pm. Occasional Sundays. Located a couple of kilometres south of the city on the N71 to Dijon. 114, Bd. de Dijon, 10800. St Julien les Villas (+33 (0)325 82 80 80). Visit www.marquesavenue.com for further information.
In 1995, MacArthurGlen opened a place to the north of Troyes, at Pont-Sainte-Marie, a village of manufacturers' shops in an original architectural style, with prestige labels to be found in some 80 shops. The outlet is designed to appeal to the whole family, with leisure and restaurants built into the complex.
Normal opening hours: Monday to Friday from 10.00am - 7.00pm, Saturday from 9.30am - 7.00pm.
At Pont-Ste-Marie, a short way to the northeast of Troyes along the D960 to Nancy.
Rue Danton. Zone Pont Sainte Marie. Troyes. (+33 (0)325 70 47 10). Visit www.mcarthurglen.fr for further information.
Also at Pont-Ste-Marie, on rue Marc-Verdier, is the Marques City Shopping outlet. For further information visit www.marquescity.com
Buses for the shopping outlets on the outskirts of town depart from the bus stops by Marché les Halles. Ask at the tourist offices or bus station for details.