French traders' fume after court orders Paris home-improvement shops to shut on Sundays

Friday 27 September 2013 12.09
Mais non: traders react with anger over court ban on Sunday opening for DIY stores near Paris
Mais non: traders react with anger over court ban on Sunday opening for DIY stores near Paris

A court order shutting home-improvement shops near Paris on Sundays has angered traders - sparking a row over business regulation in a country barely out of recession where consumers are not spending.

The Castorama and Leroy Merlin chains were told to close 15 shops in the Paris region on Sundays, a traditional day of rest.

Action was taken after a complaint by competitor Bricorama, which was itself ordered last year to keep its shutters down on that day.

Earlier, another court ordered perfume chain Sephora - part of the LVMH group - to shut its flagship Champs-Elysees shop in the heart of Paris after 9pm after a complaint by a labour union.

"I was shocked by the rulings," the head of the main employers' union Pierre Gattaz told French TV.

"The law must change so that it stops wreaking havoc.

"It's unbearable: clients want to consume more and staff want to work more and they can't. It's crazy," Mr Gattaz added. 

Consumer spending stagnated over the months of July and August after contracting in June. 

An unexpected sharp bounce in consumer spending in May had helped pull the country out of a shallow recession in the second quarter.

Analysts saying the latest consumer data confirmed that the economy would likely not repeat the second quarter's 0.5% rebound.

Sunday has been enshrined as a day of rest in France since 1906, but a myriad of clauses exempt categories such as fishmongers, florists or the self-employed.

Furniture and gardening stores can open for example, but home improvement stores cannot.

The CEO of Bricorama which was made to close 24 shops in the Paris region last year said he was somewhat satisfied by the court ruling for the sake of fairness, but added that what he would really want is to be allowed to open Sundays.

"I am a retailer, if my clients want to come on Sundays I have a duty to be open," Jean-Claude Bourrelier said, adding that he lost 15% to 20% turnover on his Paris region shops after they stopped working on Sundays.

"What I want is all closed, or all open, but all equal.Otherwise it's unfair competition," he said, complaining that furniture shops such as Ikea are allowed to be open on Sundays and sell tools such as drills.

Mr Bourrelier said he never failed to find volunteers to work on Sundays.

Payment of three times the normal rate is likely to have helped encourage them.