PARIS – French retail was dealt another blow Friday night, when France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex revealed new measures to try and curb the coronavirus’ spread, which includes temporary closures of large non-essential stores, such as department stores and commercial centers, beginning Sunday.
In a press conference held following a meeting of the health defense council at the Élysée Palace on Friday, Castex said that despite the 6 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew now in place countrywide, the COVID-19 situation is “worrying,” with a large number of people hospitalized and in intensive care units, and as new variants of the virus circulate in the country.
Rather than locking France down again, as it has been twice already since March, the government has opted to put in place some new measures.
Retailers that do not sell food and have a surface area greater than 2,000 square meters, or 21,525 square feet, will be closed starting Sunday.
In Paris, that includes the Galeries Lafayette flagship on Boulevard Haussmann, Le Bon Marché, Westfield Forum des Halles and BHV-Marais, among other stores.
At the large retailers remaining open, gauges such as the number of people allowed in store at once and how far apart they must remain will be reinforced.
There are new travel restrictions going into effect, too. Entry into and exit from France – from or to a country outside of the European Union – will be prohibited except for important reasons, for example.
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“Whatever the cost – loans guaranteed by the state, the solidarity fund, partial unemployment – will of course apply to all employees and companies concerned,” said Castex.
The French government’s 100 billion euro stimulus package is geared at rebuilding the economy and creating unemployment.
France has already had two lockdowns – starting in March and November – and their impacts keep reverberating for fashion and beauty sellers.
In November, for instance, Printemps department store unveiled a broad restructuring plan that will result in store closures and hundreds of layoffs. While Galeries Lafayette Group’s department store division is restructuring its Paris headquarters, likely leading to around 185 job cuts.
Retailers in the French capital had already faced a series of challenges before the COVID-19 pandemic put international tourism on hold and prompted temporary store closures. The industry has come to rely on deep-pocketed visitors, particularly from Asia, for much of its growth, but yellow-vest protests, transport strikes and terrorist attacks have severely disrupted business in recent years.
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