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France

French government wants more Sunday shopping

Galeries Lafayette department store, central Paris
Galeries Lafayette department store, central Paris Reuters/Charles Platiau

The French government is to propose this week that shops in France open more often on Sundays, in a bid to boost the sluggish economy.

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Shops in France are currently subject to tight restrictions on opening hours.

Although many French towns hold a market on Sunday mornings and bakeries and other food shops frequently open on Sunday mornings, larger shops are rarely open on Sundays, except in the weeks before Christmas.

Certain designated tourist zones, such as the Marais district in Paris, have separate Sunday trading rules allowing them to open every Sunday.

Under the new proposals, to be unveiled on Wednesday for debate in parliament early next year, local authorities would be allowed to grant trading licences on 12 Sundays a year, compared to the current five Sundays annually.

In addition, local officials would be obliged to grant five trading Sundays a year whereas currently they can decide to grant none.

In tourist areas and certain busy stations, the laws would be relaxed still further.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in a television interview on Sunday that Paris in particular was at risk of seeing visitors go elsewhere to spend unless retail laws were loosened.

"Do we want millions and millions of tourists - notably the Chinese - who come to the capital to leave us and go and do their shopping in London on a Sunday?" Valls asked.

"I think that for obvious reasons, economic, competitiveness, job creation, opening up a certain number of shops, a certain number of tourist zones seems to me to be the right direction," added Valls.

But the measure has run into opposition in France where, unlike in many rival European countries, the idea of Sunday as a day of rest still attracts considerable support.

Valls conceded that "there will be a debate" about the proposal.

In fact, 30 percent of the workforce in France already works regularly or occasionally on a Sunday.

Opposition to the Sunday opening comes from all points of the political spectrum, as well as from Catholic and trade union lobbies.

An opinion poll published on Friday showed that 62 percent of respondents were in favour of shops opening on Sundays, although 60 percent said they would be reluctant to work themselves on that day.

 

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