PARIS — In a bid to help small French retailers protect their margins, the French government on Friday decided to postpone the traditional start-of-the-year sales calendar to Jan. 20.
The country’s winter sales, which last around a month, usually start the first week of January but coronavirus lockdowns throughout November have shortened the holiday spending season, and the government reasoned that struggling businesses could use more time to sell goods at full price.
While small business associations welcomed the move, larger retailers said they would have preferred to start discounting earlier in the season in order to draw down stocks and build up cash to kick-start business next year.
“[Retail] organizations are worried about the economic and social consequences that this postponement might have on cash management challenges at the start of January following a month of November without sales,” said a number of retail associations including Procos, the Alliance du Commerce, the Fédération Française de la Franchise, and the Conseil National des Centres Commerciaux in a joint statement.
French retailers across the spectrum were relieved to reopen last weekend, and had agreed to postpone Black Friday sales for a week to avoid crowds from forming as stringent lockdown measures began to ease.
There are hopes that consumption in France will bounce back in December, spurred by holiday spending, which is expected to hold firm, according to some projections.
The French government’s economic statistics agency Insee has forecast that gross domestic product will fall 8 percent below precrisis levels this month, while household spending will come in at 6 percent below precrisis figures. Both areas show marked improvement compared to last spring, when GDP sank to 30 percent below precrisis level, and even last month, when the figure was down 12 percent.
The government has hinted it will consider allowing Sunday openings in January in heavily populated parts of the country to prevent crowds during the sales season. It has already given the green light for Sunday business throughout December.