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Can January sales survive the “yellow vests” protests in France?

By Marjorie van Elven


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Those who thought the “yellow vest” movement in France had lost momentum were definitely in the wrong. Participation in the weekly protests grew again last weekend, following a holiday drop. About 50,000 people took to the streets across the country. Once again, the marches started peacefully, but quickly gave way to clashes between protesters and the police.

The unrest raises the question whether French retailers will be able to compensate the losses from the previous two months, when turnover fell by 6.8 percent in November and 25 percent in December, according to Procos, the Federation for the Promotion of Specialized Commerce, which represents over 260 high street retailers. “This year, considering the context, it’s clear that the sales have become even more important”, Emmanuel Le Roch, Procos’ Managing Director, told news agency AFP.

The French Retail Federation estimates retail losses in over 1 billion euros (1.13 billion US dollars) so far. Losses were caused not only because many shoppers decided to stay home, but also because the yellow vests actively depredated stores, targeting those with a premium or luxury offering in particular.

January sales usually account for an average of 20 percent of French retailers’ yearly turnover, according to Procos. Due to the impact of the protests, the French Retail Federation called for the sales period, officially scheduled to last ten weeks from January 9, to begin a week earlier than usual on January 3rd. However, for Le Roch, the first few weeks will be crucial. “Even more so than last year”, he predicts.

Yellow vests