PARIS — Sephora’s flagship on Paris’ Champs-Élysées must close at 9 p.m. Such is the decision of the French Constitutional Council, which was announced here on Friday, upholding a French court’s ruling from September 2013.
Since 1996, the store had remained open until midnight during the week and 1 a.m. on the weekend, with twenty percent of the unit’s sales reportedly rung up after 9 p.m.
“We are particularly disappointed by this decision,” Sephora said in a statement issued after the ruling on Friday. “[It] shows that the interpretation of the legal text poses serious difficulties.”
A spokeswoman for the company told WWD that this was “not the end of it.” She said Sephora is “eager” to take the matter to the Court of Cassation, which in France is referred to as the court of last resort.
By contrast, in a second decision handed down on Friday, the Constitutional Council decided in Sephora’s favor, allowing shops to trade on Sundays if they are granted an exceptional permit by the prefecture. The Council ruled the company’s works council could no longer challenge this permit as before.
“That is very good news,” the Sephora spokeswoman explained.
Store closing times have been an incendiary topic of late. In September, following the court’s ruling, Sephora published a statement saying “more than 50 people, all volunteers, have been employed to allow the store to be open for the Champs-Élysées’ touristic clientele until midnight during the week and 1 a.m. the weekend.” It also said Sephora’s night shift, for which employees get paid extra, had drawn more applicants than the number of posts available.
“It is moreover surprising that only the Sephora store on the Champs-Élysées is attacked by the Paris Retail Trade Union Liaison Committee (Clic-P,) despite support of employees that Sephora has in this role,” it said.
Marionnaud’s flagship, also on the Champs-Élysées a few doors away from Sephora, remains open until midnight seven days a week, for instance.
Prior to the decision, Sephora’s employees took out a full-page advertisement in Le Figaro newspaper’s Sept. 14-15 weekend edition, saying: “We want to continue working at night.” It also included a hand-written petition signed by about 90 people and said that a 9 p.m. closing was not only “unfavorable to us employees, but also to our clients.”
A few months later, during parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s annual results presentation, in January 2013, the firm’s chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault told journalists and financial analysts that he lamented that unions managed to convince French courts to quash Sephora’s right to keep the flagship open until midnight – something employees were willing to do given they would receive a 25 percent pay premium and taxi fare home.
“It’s very strange to have arrived at that situation,” he said at the time. “[Customers] will go shop elsewhere, maybe in London. That’s regrettable.”
Various legal moves to loosen French retailers’ night hours have hit roadblocks in the recent past.
In December 2013, for instance, a bill meant to allow retailers to stay open later in France was voted down in the country’s National Assembly. Proposed by the UMP party, the bill sought authorization for stores staying open later at night in zones with exceptionally heavy tourist traffic or permanent cultural activity. It also called for additional compensation for employees working at night.