French retailers, hoteliers warn strikes could spoil Christmas season


  • World
  • Saturday, 07 Dec 2019

PARIS (Reuters) - French retailers and hoteliers warned their crucial Christmas season could be spoiled if a strike, which was causing travel chaos for a second day on Friday, drags on for much longer.

The strike, aimed at forcing President Emmanuel Macron to ditch a planned reform of state pensions, led to a drastically reduced service on trains, buses and the metro..

The transport disruption is expected to continue over this weekend and into early next week.

"I had one client since this morning," said Karine Barbe, 47, an employee in an embroidery shop in central Paris. "If the strike continues, clients are not going to come as there are no trains.

The strikes, coming on the heels of the 'yellow vest' protests that started in November 2018, deal a new blow to retailers, said Francis Palombi, head of the French Federation of small retailers.

"2019 was a very difficult year for retailers with revenue losses. Some had to shut down because of this dramatic situation that may continue and even amplify. It's very serious," he said.

Hotels in big cities received numerous cancellations ahead of the strike, Laurent Duc, the head of the French UMIH hotel federation told Reuters.

"Its a disaster for retailers and hoteliers. As soon as tourists hear about strikes, they say: 'We are not going to France, it's going to be chaos in Paris'," he said.

He predicted the strikes could cost hotels, on average, 10-15% of their revenue in December. In the eastern city of Lyon hotel cancellation rates were close to 30%, he said.

The GNI trade federation of independent hotels said bookings were down 30-40% in Paris hotels while restaurants saw revenue fall 50%.

Bigger stores in the retail sector said they could ride out the disruption. At upmarket department store chain Galeries Lafayette, a spokeswoman said that the group's stores were open and that "everything was normal".

French supermarket retailer Casino , owner of city centre Monoprix stores, said that because the strike's date had been known ahead of time, Casino had beefed up its stocks.

Yellow vests anti-government protests have already taken a heavy toll on French retailers. Casino reported those protests, by blocking access to some stores, cost it 50 million euros in the fourth quarter of 2018 alone.

Losses for the same period came in at 45 million euros (£38.66 million) for electronics good retailer Darty and 140 million euros for hypermarket group Auchan.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Noemie Olive and Emilie Delwarde; Editing by Christian Lowe)


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