PARIS — France will postpone its summer sales by three weeks in order to give independent retailers time to shift spring inventory at full price and restore their cash flow, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday.
“The sales will begin on July 15 and will last four weeks,” the government official said on RTL radio. The discount period had originally been scheduled to run from June 24 to July 21.
“I have granted the request of small storekeepers. I know that may raise issues for other big retailers, but I think it’s legitimate in this very particular period to support those that are the weakest,” Le Maire explained.
Independent retailers are not the only ones seeking to limit markdowns. Operating under the generic web site forumletter.org, a loose-knit group of luxury retailers and designers last month published a statement urging a slowdown in the pace of fashion.
The signatories, which include Dries Van Noten, Lane Crawford and Altuzarra, propose that men’s and women’s fall collections should be merchandised in stores from August to January, with markdowns in January, with spring collections displayed from February to July, with markdowns in July.
The Fédération Nationale de l’habillement, which represents independent French retailers, welcomed Le Maire’s announcement.
“This gives retailers several weeks more to get rid of spring and summer stocks that they were unable to sell for more than two months. This welcome postponement of the sales will allow them to preserve their margins,” it said in a statement.
Le Maire said the government was trying to find buyers for ready-to-wear chains that have filed for bankruptcy as a result of the coronavirus crisis, including Camaïeu, which employs close to 4,000 people, and La Halle, where 2,200 jobs are at risk.
He warned more pain was inevitable, saying the government now expects the French economy to contract by 11 percent in 2020, versus an earlier forecast of an 8 percent drop.
“I have been very clear that the hardest part is still ahead of us,” he told RTL. “I am absolutely convinced we will bounce back in 2021.”
French clothing and textile sales fell 74.6 percent in April, when all but essential stores were closed under France’s strict lockdown rules, the Institut Français de la Mode reported on Tuesday. Retailers’ revenues were down 28.2 percent in the first four months of 2020 versus the same period a year ago, it said.