Sunday Shopping – France

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Français : Anne Hidalgo Première adjointe au M...
Français : Anne Hidalgo Première adjointe au Maire de Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In France since 1906 Sunday has been protected as a day of rest by statute with just a few exceptions; fishmongers, florists and those businesses that are closely associated with tourism. Businesses that break this law are subject to a fine of €6000 (about $8000).

However, France as are many European economies, is facing higher that desirable levels of unemployment, presently running at a jobless total of 10.5% with what can only be described as feeble economic strength with reducing consumer spending. So there are voices within France who are saying that Sunday trading should be more liberalized in an effort to boost consumer spending. Indeed public attitudes seem to be suggesting that they want Sunday trading and shop workers would also like Sunday trading as well. So why not?

Those who oppose the extension of Sunday trading; Unions & the Roman Catholic Church argue that it is important to keep the 35-hour week and Sunday as a day of rest and relaxation. That change would be Anti-French.

Laws about Sunday trading vary greatly right across Europe, German still largely supports the notion of no Sunday trading while the UK has very liberal laws. The UK broadly speaking allowed open Sunday trading with sweeping changes introduced in 1994. Greece and Italy who both have struggling economies have both recently changed their legal frameworks to allow Sunday trading in an effort to combat the very poor economic conditions they are facing. France too has gone some of the way with changes introduced in 2009 under the previous right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy who gave Mayors the authority to designate specific Sunday trading areas.

Commercial tensions are running high though. In recent court rulings DIY stores Castorama and Leroy Merlin were ordered to close on Sundays following a complaint from their commercial rival Bricorama. These rulings have not quelled the demands of those who what Sunday trading, indeed they have added fervor to the cause for Sunday trading. But traditionalists still maintain and defend the importance of balancing work with leisure time which to any outsider appears central to the French way of life.

Nonetheless the evidence does support the majority view that people want to shop more, they want to spend more and those who work in shops want to work more.

Now that France has a Socialist President in power the argument just got a lot more trickier for all concerned. Further loosening of the Sunday trading laws is unlikely, Labour Minister Michel Sapin has not indicated that he is inclined to make further changes. In addition to this, prominent Mayors like Paris’s Bertrand Delanoe, a Socialist, has refused to extend Sunday commerce zones.

The political tensions are sure to be heated to boiling point on this issue as Mayoral elections are due to take place in March 2014. Conservative candidate for Mayor of Paris Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet has proposed expanding Sunday shopping as part of an effort to defend France’s title as the world’s most-visited country. By contrast the Socialist contender Anne Hidalgo, on the other hand, has maintained that Sunday should remain a day of rest for people to spend time with family or do charity work.

Politicians on the far left have threatened to run against Anne Hidalgo if she changes her stance on Sunday trading potentially splitting the left vote and allowing in the Conservative into the Mayors job.

March in Paris should be fun for those who watch French political maneuverings.

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