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Black Friday sales postponed in France in solidarity with small businesses

In this file photo taken on November 29, 2019, people walk past a "Black Friday" sales poster in Ajaccio, Corsica.
In this file photo taken on November 29, 2019, people walk past a "Black Friday" sales poster in Ajaccio, Corsica. AFP - PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA
4 min

French shops and services considered non-essential are to reopen from Saturday as the government begins easing the second Covid-19 lockdown. Larger companies and online merchants such as Amazon have agreed to hold off their annual Black Friday sales until 4 December, one of several examples of solidarity towards smaller businesses.

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While Black Friday sales get underway in earnest in the United States, France decided to postpone the retail extravaganza in solidarity with French companies suffering from the crisis brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although the French government has injected billions of euros into the economy since March, small and medium sized companies, in the face of two lockdowns and few international tourists, have struggled to stay afloat.

Businesses hard hit by the crisis are hoping to make up for lost time ahead of the Christmas season, and they have a week to get a head start before larger companies and online merchants begin their traditional sales.

Large chains join effort

Smaller retailers complained that they would lose out to online giant Amazon if it went ahead with the annual Black Friday mega sales, originally imported from the US, while their doors remain closed. 

The anger translated into a petition. In response, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire met Amazon France boss Frederic Duval and other representatives from stores and online commerce sites last week.

Amazon, along with major supermarket and chains like Carrefour, Auchan, Leclerc and Darty agreed that Black Friday, scheduled for 27 November this year, would be postponed by a week.

Holding off means stores can re-open under “maximum health security conditions", a joint statement from the signatories said, without having to absorb large crowds of bargain hunters.

Le Maire hailed "the spirit of responsibility" shown by sellers who have agreed to delay the promotion.

Temporary street stalls

The City of Paris is to allow retailers to use footpaths and parking spaces directly in front of their shops to display their goods for one month as of 1 December.

Storeowners must register online and sign an ethics charter.

Removable structures such as folding tables, crates or pallets can be used but must be placed in such a way as to allow enough room for pedestrians to pass by, Paris town hall said.

The measure – which could benefit 48,000 shops across the capital – has been welcomed by people like Philippe who owns a toy store in the 18th district of Paris.

"This space could be used to wrap presents, or simply offer our customers a cup of hot wine…it’s a welcome idea after such a crisis," he told Le Parisien daily newspaper on Thursday.

Others, such as the 60 Million Pedestrians association are not so pleased.

"Most footpaths are already full of other things like street furniture," Jean-Paul Chevalier, president of the organisation told Le Parisien.

He pointed to problems which occurred earlier in the year when restaurants and cafés were allowed to use part of the footpaths for outdoor seating.

Risk of theft, bad weather

For some, the exercise is perilous for other reasons.

Smaller shops say hiring security personnel is out of the question when the budget is so tight. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Benjamin Cymerman, president of the Faubourg Saint-Honoré committee in the 8th district says it would not be suitable for luxury shops to leave expensive watches on the footpath, due to the risk of theft.

For other stores, it’s a question of their products being left out in rain, snow or dust.

In another show of solidarity with small businesses, supermarket chains such as Intermarché have made space online for local shops to sell their wares using the click and collect policy.

Platforms such as Made in France have also stepped up to defend smaller producers and artisans swamped by the large international markets.

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