As well as two nationwide lockdowns, the government also closed all ‘non-essential’ shops during the partial lockdown in spring 2021.
Shops reopened on May 19th and although many loyal customers have returned, business owners are concerned about a summer with fewer tourists and divided on the delayed summer sales period – introduced by the government in an attempt to help retailers.
The government announced last month that the traditional summer sales would be delayed until June 30th. At the time, the Commerçants de France (CDF) business association bemoaned the decision not to push them back even further, calling it “another hard blow for numerous independent retailers” – although other business owners prefer the June start.
Manuel Ferreira, owner of the women’s clothing shop LOL By Louisiane in Paris’ trendy Marais district, said: “I’m fortunate to have a loyal client base, and people were happy to see me again, to be in the shop, to treat themselves as well.
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“For a year it was complicated, and they let loose a little bit.”
But he fears the loss of the capital’s usual tourists on his trade. “Normally there are always tourists, and people from outside who come into Paris, but this year I think it’s going to be calmer than normal.”
At the nearby men’s clothing store Silver, 80 percent of sales usually come from people who don’t live in Paris. Despite being allowed to re-open in May, turnover is down 70 percent compared to 2019.
“It’s still very difficult today,” owner David Albert said. “French people consume very little. They’re not familiar with the idea of economic recovery. The bank accounts are full but they don’t want to spend.”
Gian Carlo Moscoso, owner of the GC Creation jewellery shop also in Marais was more blunt, saying he was “not at all optimistic” about the future for businesses like his.
“We don’t know where we’re going,” he said. “And then there are a lot of boutiques in Paris which have shut up shop. For the moment, I don’t know. I think we’ll have a better idea a year from now.”
David Dana, owner of clothes boutique Quai 71, shrugs his shoulders when asked whether he is optimistic.
After the past year and a half, he prefers to avoid making predictions. “What’s lost is lost, it’s over. The re-opening was good, at least there’s that, compared to the first lockdown which was difficult, this re-opening was better.”
He is, however, relieved that the sales can now begin, albeit later than normal, after they were delayed until July 15th last year. “It was really too late,” he said, “Nobody was in Paris anymore.”
In France, sales periods are regulated by the state. Photo: Thomas COEX / AFP.
Jessica Deveaux, who runs the Camélia clothing store on Rue des Rosiers, was keen to get her sales started.
“The new collection is going to arrive and we need space,” she said on Tuesday morning, in between preparing labels for the sales. “And eventually people are going to go on holiday so it’s better to sell while people are still in Paris.”
Without the sales, Deveaux said people would not come and spend money: “We don’t have a choice, we have to play along, because the clients work in the same way. Covid or no Covid, they’re used to having sales in June.”
For many, the sales are an opportunity to move stock which has built up because of the various lockdowns. “Everything will be on sale” at LOLA, said Ferreira. “What I don’t sell, I’ll slash the prices on from the beginning, 50 percent off.”
With a bit of ingenuity, however, not everything will be lost. “There are lots of things that we received in the spring, and to avoid slashing prices, I put them aside for the autumn. They’ll go very well with the new collections.”