PARIS — Tensions in the retail sector are running high in France as the government begins setting out plans to gradually lift lockdown measures that have kept school kids and workers at home while nonessential commerce remains shut.
“We are taking part in the collective effort to fight COVID-19, but this situation of closures cannot last,” a group of 12 retail federations and 150 managers of retail chains wrote in an open letter posted in French daily Le Parisien.
“It puts our companies in serious danger, and is worrying our 800,000 employees who fear for their jobs,” they wrote.
The list of signatories included the Alliance du Commerce, Pierre-François Le Louet of the French women’s ready-to-wear federation, Eléonore de Boysson of LVMH Moët Hennessy’s travel retail arm DFS Group, and Galeries Lafayette chief executive officer Nicolas Houzé.
Noting that more than 150,000 stores have been closed since April 3, the group is calling on the government to allow them reopen on May 10.
In an evening press conference Thursday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the third wave of COVID-19 has peaked and the government will begin reopening schools on May 3 followed by shops, theaters and museums in mid-May, if conditions allow. On May 3, the government also plans to ease rules restricting people to 10 kilometers, or 6.2 miles, from their homes.
In the open letter, retailers said their companies lost more than 20 percent of sales last year, on average, and have lost more than 30 percent of their business since the beginning of this year.
“Our fall is bringing down our entire ecosystem: suppliers, franchisees and affiliates, brands, start-ups, property owners and service providers, and cities that will see lasting commercial vacancies,” they wrote.
Even before the pandemic grounded international travel, depriving France of tourists — a key revenue source for the country — the retail sector suffered a series of disruptions in recent years, including yellow vest protests and transportation strikes.