The city of Angers in north west France became on August 25th the first hypermarket to ever open on a Sunday afternoon – allowing customers the chance to shop until 9pm.
For the last few years, the Casino chain has been experimenting with Sundays afternoon openings in its smaller city stores – along with several other brands like Franprix – and is planning on extending these opening hours to 500 of its big stores in the coming years.
The only noticeable difference with a weekday trip to the grocery store is the absence of cashiers. People have to pay their groceries through automated check-outs, which only accept debit cards. It is also not possible to buy alcohol or knives, due to the lack of cashiers to perform age checks.
However, the launch of this operation was no picnic. A little before midday, hundreds of union members and some 'yellow vests' began protesting inside and outside Angers' Géant Casino de la Roseraie.
The protest was about Sunday opening, and also union fears of an eventual extension of this automatic system to weekdays, despite Angers' Casino board maintaining that this idea was off the agenda.
Check-out operators ended their day as planned around 1pm, for automatic check-outs to take over. Within minutes, error messages appeared on the machines.
Discouraged by the waiting line and demonstrators' slogans, many customers ended up leaving without their articles. The situation even became heated between protesters and clients.
— julie Urbach (@julieUrbach) August 25, 2019
As the pressure eased by the end of the afternoon, customers were able to shop more peacefully.
Despite a lukewarm launch, the experience should still be lasting ''a few months'' before Casino's board decides or not to definitively implement Sunday's afternoon openings.
Until fairly recently all shops in France were closed on a Sunday and in many smaller towns this is still largely the case.
However big cities, particularly Paris, has seen more and more stores open on a Sunday in recent years and some of the major supermarket chains also offer Sunday morning shopping in the bigger supermarkets and hypermarkets.