PARIS — A week after reopening stores, French retailers said footfall remains below average, although shoppers venturing into stores are spending more than usual, with winning categories including children’s wear, sporting goods and home goods.
Emmanuel Le Roch, general manager of Procos, the federation representing specialized trade, said foot traffic was down 30 percent to 40 percent compared with the same period last year, with the situation worse in the Paris region, since it has a high concentration of shopping centers, which have yet to reopen.
“On the other hand, conversion is very high. The people who are coming in have clearly been waiting for this moment to make purchases, since we are seeing some sectors perform very well,” he told WWD.
A spokeswoman for Galeries Lafayette said the retailer was “very satisfied” with the week’s results, even though footfall remains 20 percent to 30 percent below the levels recorded before the coronavirus pandemic forced France into lockdown on March 17.
She also reported that conversion rates and average baskets were higher than before, noting that home wares, children’s wear and men’s sneakers performed well, while ready-to-wear has been slower to recover. The retailer’s web site is advertising reductions of up to 50 percent, while rival Le Bon Marché kicked off last week with discounts of 40 percent on selected items.
Across the French capital, retailers reported positive customer reaction to social distancing and safety measures. At Le Bon Marché, customers were limited to one per 10 square meters, while at Loewe, greeters ceremoniously presented masks with tongs, as they would a hot towel.
Galeries Lafayette put in place a raft of security measures at its flagship on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, regional stores and the BHV Marais department store in Paris. “Everybody felt very comfortable with the set-up. We have encouraged and trained our staff to take the initiative when it comes to implementing safety measures,” the spokeswoman said.
The retailer is lobbying the Paris police to allow it to reopen its main store on Boulevard Haussmann, which, alongside its rival Printemps, remains closed to the public.
At luxury group Kering, which owns brands including Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, executives were “pleasantly surprised” by the number of customers in its French stores — many of them aged under 30, a spokeswoman said.
The group has seen a good response from local consumers, in line with its experience in China, with very high conversion rates. E-commerce is also growing fast, she reported.
“The international tourist clientele, which accounts for around half the turnover of our Parisian stores, will be gone for at least a year, but we are committed to keeping all of our teams in place to preserve employment,” Kering chairman and chief executive officer François-Henri Pinault was quoted as saying by French daily Le Figaro on Saturday.
“Store traffic in the first days is down, but it is higher than we had expected. On certain days, some stores have seen their sales increase compared to the same period last year. More customers are buying. We did not expect such a strong start. While it’s impossible to predict whether this phenomenon will last, it proves the strength and the loyalty of our local customers,” he said during a visit to the Gucci store on Avenue Montaigne.
Pinault said sales staff were contacting customers by phone and developing new ways of selling remotely.
LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton declined to comment, although a source said beauty retailer Sephora was seeing high conversion rates, with new measures including click-and-collect stations at the front of stores. Queues were seen at the Louis Vuitton flagship on the Champs-Élysées.
Bernard Arnault, chairman and ceo of the world’s biggest luxury group, was spotted doing the rounds at the Louis Vuitton store on Place Vendôme on Saturday wearing a protective mask.
Regis Pennel of L’Exception said the multibrand retailer reopened last Thursday, but traffic is down by around half. “There is very little footfall, but those who come in are here to buy,” he said.
Pennel expects to implement discounts of around 30 to 40 percent later in the week. He was prepared to lower prices earlier, but a number of brands said they were opposed to the idea, before abruptly changing their stance. Pennel fears retail in France will suffer deeply.
“I’m hearing from others who have reopened that sales are down around 50 to 60 percent, and it’s not viable for a store to operate at this level, so there’s a deep problem in the market — if things don’t pick up in the weeks to come, it will be absolutely disastrous for French retail,” he said, noting that “massive” numbers of store closures could take place.
Le Roch at Procos said the federation was waiting to see whether the pent-up demand experienced in the first week peters out, as has been observed in other countries, or whether French consumers are ready to spend some of the estimated 60 billion euros in savings they amassed during the lockdown.
“Since you can’t go to the restaurant or to the movies, they may want to treat themselves in stores,” he remarked.