Friday, 21 January, 2022

How the yellow vests weigh down the frequentation of shops


If Black Friday delighted e-commerce specialists who are accumulating records, the weekend was very dark for physical commerce. This weekend as for ten days, the demonstrations and blockages of the yellow vests have kept customers away from the stores, alarmed the professionals of the sector. Consequence: a drop in attendance and therefore in turnover. “During the weekend of November 17 and 18, sales declines of 40% to 80% were recorded,” said Yohann Petiot, director general of the Alliance du commerce. Declines were also noted in the following week. The finding is also worrying on the side of the National Council of Shopping Centers: “A drop of 40% in attendance took place on November 17,” notes its national delegate Gontran Thüring.

While fortunes have varied depending on the location, regional shopping centers have apparently been more strongly affected than in Ile-de-France and shops on the outskirts more than in the city center. This is the case of the Shopping Promenade d’Amiens, a shopping center with 40 stores over 40,000 square meters. “On a normal Saturday, the site receives between 40,000 and 50,000 visitors. On November 17, there were only 2,700”, explains Mathieu Mollière, director of communication, marketing and innovation of the Frey group behind the mall. Fifteen times less than normal! Decathlon also saw its turnover collapse during this first weekend of mobilization of yellow vests: -60% on all of its stores.

Crucial period

And the situation didn’t improve that much on Black Friday weekend. “In 2017, attendance jumped 8% for Black Friday, this year it fell by 0.7%. And on Saturday, it fell by 15.4%”, also indicates Gontran Thüring. Three elements are contributing to this plunge, according to Yohann Petiot: the blockages that physically prevent customers from accessing shops, the psychological effect since consumers give up going shopping and the logistical effect with supply defects linked to blockages.

Disturbances that fall could not be more badly. “We are already on a rather negative year where declines of 3% to 5% could be recorded,” notes Yohann Petiot. And the coming Christmas season is crucial for the retail sector. “If the yellow vests movement continues, imagine how dramatic this could be for an independent trader who would sell chocolate and therefore achieve most of his turnover at Christmas time”, imagines Mathieu Mollière. “What we expect is that vests realize that by blocking shopping centers, they are penalizing workers like them who just ask to do their job.”

Overflows on the Champs-Elysées

The images of the overflows on the Champs-Elysées this weekend are also not really likely to reassure foreign tourists, “even though they had returned”, notes Yohann Petiot, adding that on the famous avenue, signs had to close in the middle of the day on Saturday or that customers were stranded in the stores. Several luxury stores in the district suffered damage during these overflows, such as Dior, Chanel, Balenciaga or Yves Saint-Laurent for example. The Eiffel Tower had chosen not to open all day Saturday because of the demonstrations.

Faced with an “unprecedented” blocking situation, according to Mathieu Mollière, the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, received representatives of the sector on Monday to gauge the impact of the movement and discuss support measures for professionals. “Recent events have had a severe impact on national economic activity” declared the minister at the end of this meeting. He declared in particular to have reactivated the economic continuity unit which allows hard-hit companies to benefit from the spreading of tax or social deadlines and thus alleviate cash flow problems. A measure that is in line with what the Trade Alliance expected. “We had the impression that we were being listened to,” says Yohann Petiot at the end of the meeting. The Trade Alliance also calls for “restoring free movement by allowing customers to carry out their Christmas shopping safely and by allowing logistics warehouses to deliver to stores”. A meeting which took place while the yellow vests are getting organized with the creation of a “delegation” to bring their demands.

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Yellow vests

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