PARIS — Tensions ran high in Paris Friday as the French capital braced for further mayhem from anti-government demonstrations over the weekend, with luxury groups Kering and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton joining department stores in protectively shutting all of their stores on Saturday, while authorities warned people steer clear of parts of the city.
The lockdown comes at a time when the holiday shopping season is normally entering full swing; instead the city is gripped by the possibility of more violence, with the government pledging to employ 8,000 troops and a dozen armored vehicles in Paris, and 89,000 security forces around the country.
“Out of security concerns for our employees and clients, all of the Paris boutiques of our houses will remain closed on Saturday,” said Kering in a statement. The luxury group counts Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balençiaga among its fashion labels alongside jewelry houses Boucheron, Pomellato and Qeelin.
“All Parisian points of sale for the LVMH group will be closed Saturday,” noted LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton, Dior and Chaumet, among other high-end labels.
Galeries Lafayette, BHV Marais, Printemps and Citadium said they would close on Saturday but resume business on Sunday.
“Peoples’ safety — both clients and employees — is an absolute priority for the Galeries Lafayette group all year round. In light of current events affecting Paris these past weeks, and as a precautionary measure, the group has decided to close its Galeries Lafayette Haussmann and BHV Marais flagship stores on Saturday,” Galeries Lafayette said.
Announcing the planned closure of all of its stores in the capital, Printemps cited information provided by authorities as the reason for the decision, which was announced Friday afternoon.
Symbolized by demonstrators wearing yellow safety vests, the protest movement started out as discontent over a fuel tax but has broadened to encompass a range of frustrations over declining living standards, taking a violent turn that has caught the country by surprise and thrown the government of French President Emmanuel Macron into crisis.
A section of the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré will be entirely sealed off for the fourth weekend in a row to protect the Élysée presidential palace.
The forced closures have affected 69 stores, including the Hermès flagship and boutiques belonging to Chanel, Valentino, Saint Laurent, Tod’s and Loro Piana, resulting in millions of euros of lost business, said Benjamin Cymerman, president of the Comité du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
“Most of the people working in the area get paid on commission, so we also expect a big impact on their pay packets at the end of the month. This situation has serious economic consequences for our neighborhood,” he said. “[The losses] run into the millions of euros.”
Edouard Lefebvre, general manager of the Comité des Champs-Élysées, estimated the sales declines over the past couple of weekends at roughly 80 percent, with virtually no business taking place on Saturday, but a return of traffic on Sunday. Traffic was slower two Sundays ago, while it improved last Sunday, he noted.
“Our usual reasoning about traffic flows no longer holds up — these are completely atypical weekends compared to the past,” he said.
Lefebvre noted that December generally accounts for 20 percent of business while Saturdays account for 20 percent of a typical week.
“There is a real, legitimate concern on the part of the brands — I am speaking for the Champs Elysées — but I think it’s true for all of Paris, for this end of year period. Whereas activity had picked up, now it will suffer,” he added.
Over the past weekends, violent demonstrations have turned the famed avenue and nearby side streets into a battlefield, with smoke-filled images of burning cars and vandalized stores and banks, and vandalism on monuments including the Arc de Triomphe.
“We are faced with people who aren’t there to demonstrate but to cause destruction. We are going to ensure that they don’t have a free hand to do so,” French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said on French television channel TF1 Thursday night.
“These are truly exceptional measures because we don’t want — again — the Republic, its institutions, collective security to be jeopardized,” he added.
The American Embassy in Paris advised people to avoid areas where demonstrations are planned, noting the march is expected to lead from Place de la Bastille to the Arc de Triomphe Saturday.
By late Thursday, monuments across the city had announced plans to close Saturday, including the Eiffel Tower.
The Prefecture de Police urged shops on the Champs-Élysées to stay shut and block their entrances, while those on side streets were advised to take measures to protect store windows and move vehicles and any other “vulnerable objects” from the streets.
The French government last month announced emergency measures to help retailers compensate for lost business due to the disruption of the previous weeks, which had started out with demonstrators blocking roads before descending into the chaos and vandalizing stores that has causing foot traffic to plummet.
Officials and business leaders issued pleas for calm, including Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
“Violence goes against the values of our Republic,” she said, on Twitter.