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Commerce on dimanche: Should France expand Sunday store hours?

February 13th, 2015 No comments

Bonjour! I hope your new year is off to a great start.

As many veteran and new expats alike know, stores and shops in France tend to be closed or have limited hours on Sundays – especially outside of big cities. How many times have you needed groceries after 7pm on Sunday only to have to wait until Monday? This is not the experience in all stores – but it is often the case outside of Paris.

According to The Washington Post, France is currently debating whether or not to increase the number of Sundays shops can be open per year.

It is perhaps a surprising move from the French Socialist Party, but not as surprising knowing that the French presidential cabinet has appointed in recent months more conservative, business-friendly ministers like Macron who are cozying up to capitalism.

What are your thoughts? Feel free to share and post comments!

Bon weekend à tous !

France may finally allow more shops to open on Sunday
By Rick Noack
February 12, 2015

Baker Stéphane Cazenave is said to produce France’s best baguettes. However, according to French law, he can only produce those baguettes six days a week.

Cazenave had ignored that rule because demand for his baguettes was so high that he was able to employ 22 people seven days a week. Instead of being applauded, Cazenave now faces a lawsuit. “People see me like a thug just because I asked to work,” he told France Television. “Working shouldn’t be a crime in France.”

It might seem strange to Americans, but French businesses are often closed on Sundays in most parts of the country and are only allowed to open five times a year that day. Despite the French tradition of separating religion and state, labor unions and Catholic lobbies have so far succeeded in defending Sunday as a sacred ‘day of rest’ for the entire country.

This, however, could change. To many French, the current debate about allowing more businesses to open on Sundays is of a fundamental nature: Should the country become more commercial and capitalistic?

French President François Hollande believes so. He shocked many when he recently announced he would pursue a law known under the name of France’s economy minister Emmanuel Macron. The initiative aims to liberalize the country’s bureaucratic economy. For Hollande, a lot is at stake: Having so far been unable to decrease unemployment and boost growth, his popularity has sunk dramatically.

The law — pursued by a leftist Socialist Party government — is supposed to end a variety of monopolies and allow more competition, but its most contentious proposal is to allow stores and businesses to open more often. According to the draft, they could soon operate on 12 instead of five Sundays a year. Cities could decide on their own whether they would implement the rule, and there are exceptions in areas, such as in Paris.

One of the 2012 election promises of Hollande had been to keep Sunday a day of rest. Hence, breaking with this promise has been interpreted by some in France as a sign of governmental despair with an uncertain economic impact.

Critics are outraged. “It is a moment of truth speaking to the one question that truly matters: What kind of society do we want to live in?” former French employment minister Martine Aubry asked in an op-ed in Le Monde in December.

“Does the political left have nothing else to offer as a societal model than a Sunday stroll to the mall and the accumulation of consumer goods? Sunday should be a time set aside for oneself and for others,” Aubry argued.

Without actually naming it, Aubry implied what she did not want France to become: a country with a 7-days a week consumption culture as it is common in the United States. France is not the only country in which shopping is limited on Sundays: Germany, for instance, has upheld similar regulations.

When France’s economy surprisingly started to grow slightly at the end of 2014, it was mainly due to domestic consumption. Allowing consumers to spend money seven days a week instead of only six could boost the country’s outlook, some said.

Others, however, are more skeptical. “The bill is a ‘catch-all’ text that does not address France’s serious structural issues,” Emmanuel Martin, Director of the Paris-based Institute for Economic Studies-Europe, told The Washington Post. “France’s issues are structural: a bloated government administration both at the central and local level which generates inefficient regulations, inefficient spending and of course then, higher growth-killing taxation.”

Even though Martin is not convinced of the law, he acknowledged it does sometimes feel like something from another era. “For sure, it feels weird to see shops closed in a major shopping street of Paris — one the most beautiful cities of the world,” Martin said.

French national sales “les soldes” start Jan. 11, but are they losing energy?

January 10th, 2012 No comments

Think you had enough shopping done during the Christmas holiday?

The French are getting ready for the national sales around France.

They kick off tomorrow January 11 throughout the country, and you can see a full list of dates here for each département (Paris being the 75th on the list).

You’ll see many départements have sales until February 14, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Background
The French government authorizes stores to use the word “les soldes” as an official sales period twice a year (January and July) to foster economic growth and consumption.

Stores are free to have discounts, special offers and promotions throughout the rest of the year, but they cannot use “les soldes” as an expression outside of these two time periods.
Tomorrow Economic Minister François Baroin will be the MC of the traditional kick-off of the sales period at Galeries Lafayette.

Economic uncertainty?
Despite all the pomp and festivitives, a new poll done by l’Institut BVA and published by Les Echos newspaper reveals that 36% of French consumers think that the national sales do not have a real purpose any more, and this is even more pronounced among younger consumers.

While the sales might be less trendy than last year, and this drop in enthusiasm may be explained by economic uncertainty, 60% of the French still believe that these periods present special opportunities for good deals.

If you do choose to shop, make sure to remember that prices will generally decrease as the time period goes on (up to 80% off in some cases by the end), but that the best items will likely be gone.

You may also want to check out this page for more links and information on fashion and shopping.

Happy Shopping!

French national summer sales start today till July 26

Les soldes d'été dureront cinq semaines. PHOTO THIERRY DAVID

Today marks the beginning of the biannual (one in winter, one in summer) national “sales” in most departments in France, les soldes.

Not everything is controlled by the state. Stores and shops can hold sales at other points of the year, just not call them “soldes” (so “discount operations”, “promotions”, etc.).

In most of France, sales will last from June 22nd to July 26th. In a few departments, sales will go from July 6th to August 9th. In some overseas departments and territories (DOM TOM), dates vary as well. You can see a breakdown of sales dates by department on this website.

Abercrombie & Fitch on Champs-Elysées May 19, France & globalization

April 29th, 2011 1 comment

This article by The Economist (which you all know by now is a preferred publication), talks about what Abercrombie’s arrival in France means for the country being even more globalized and the controversy that globalization often sparks in France.

I completely agree with the last paragraph, cited below (and in bold), based on my experience in France. Many French love criticizing globalization but they also regularly consume global brands. Why is that? Is France anti-globalization or a fully globalized economy? In my opinion, it’s between both. You have world-renown French brands and increasingly global minded young graduates as well as wide adoption of Twitter, Facebook and other digital media, as described in detail by another Economist article.

But you also sometimes have protest and resistance against the arrivals of foreign chains. I certainly respect the right of small shop owners to operate and enjoy French culture, but the country will have to be even more open to the forces of globalization in order to be even more successful in the world economy.

France is indeed “a riddle in a mystery inside an enigma”. But I’m enjoying the ride.

Your thoughts?

France and globalisation
We’ll always have Paris
What the new Champs-Elysées says about France
Apr 28th 2011 | PARIS | from the print edition

A GIANT naked male torso towers over the lower end of the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. Or, rather, a black-and-white photograph of a male model’s glistening muscles is draped across the four-storey façade of a soon-to-open Abercrombie & Fitch store. The unveiling next month of the first French outlet for the American retailer, renowned for improbably toned, half-dressed sales assistants and hooded sweatshirts, will delight teenagers, bemuse parents—and confirm that France’s best-known avenue has gone global.

When the first majestic lines of trees were planted in the 17th century by André Le Nôtre, Louis XIV’s landscape architect, the Champs-Elysées was a shady walk. It has long since been built up and turned over to shops, cafés and offices. But the avenue still has special meaning, both as an embodiment of French elegance and as a stage for displays of national pride and military might. Unlike London’s Bond Street or New York’s Fifth Avenue, the Champs-Elysées is where soldiers march, tanks roll and planes fly past in the annual Bastille Day parade every July 14th.

These days, though, it is getting hard to find much that is French on the Champs-Elysées, besides a few cinemas, car showrooms and luxury brands. International chains such as H&M (Swedish) and Tommy Hilfiger (American) have opened big stores, joining other foreign implants like Zara (Spanish), Virgin Megastore (British), Disney, McDonald’s and Gap (all American). Even Britain’s Marks & Spencer, which quit Paris a decade ago, is coming back soon, bravely hoping to sell women’s clothes and English sandwiches on the Champs-Elysées.

Plenty of Parisians are dismayed. Earlier this year, owing to soaring rents that make the Champs-Elysées the world’s fourth most expensive shopping street, according to Jones Lang LaSalle, a property firm, the post office closed its doors. “It will no longer be anything but a clothing street,” sniffed Lyne Cohen-Solal, a Paris councillor. A few years ago the town hall unsuccessfully appealed to the courts to block H&M’s arrival. “The Champs-Elysées is mythical,” declared François Lebel, mayor of the local borough. “The image of France is at stake.”

Like their politicians, the French always sound defiantly anti-globalisation. In polls they are far more hostile to free markets than Germans, Chinese or Russians. Yet when it comes to buying or eating foreign stuff, they are as enthusiastic. France is one of the most profitable markets for McDonald’s. Judging by the dress code of French teenagers, there will be long queues outside Abercrombie & Fitch—though whether to buy the hooded tops or to eye up the sales staff may be another question.

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