In France, Protests’ Ripple Effect Hits Holiday Season

In France, Protests Impact Holiday Retail

Christmas, cancelled?

Not really, but in France, the so-called “yellow vests” who are protesting over taxes have been taking an economic bite – enough so that expectations for economic growth are being downgraded.

Consider the fact that on Dec. 10, France’s central bank cut its economic growth projections for the current (fourth) quarter, and where expectations have now been cut in half, to 20 basis points.

The protests come in the wake of a fuel tax that had been proposed by President Emmanuel Macron’s government. Although the tax has now been abandoned, the ripple effect of protests over other economic policies and unemployment rates has been, well, rippling for roughly a month – and clogged streets, violence and arrests have left stores vulnerable or shuttered.

Over the weekend, as reported sites such as Quartz, Francois Asselin, who helms the CPME confederation of small and mid-sized businesses, wrote in the Journal du Dimanche that protests will cost SMEs as much as $11.4 billion USD and that lost sales for retailers to date have totaled more than $1.1 billion.

Said Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, the losses translate into a “catastrophe for business” as companies boarded up their brick-and-mortar locations over the weekend in key shopping districts, such as the Opera district and the streets lining the Champs-Élysées. The impact has been felt not just in urban areas, but suburban locations as well, as the protests have blocked entrances to shopping complexes, which in turn has led to temporary closings of “big box” locations for companies such as Carrefour and Fnac Darty.

Thus far, thousands of people have been arrested and hundreds have been held in custody, with several hundred injuries also reported. By way of scope, this past Saturday saw 10,000 protestors amass in Paris, and more than 100,000 took to the streets nationwide.

As reported, the protests were sparked by rural, middle-class French protestors who targeted an eco-tax on fuel. But even as that tax has been scuttled, protestors’ ire has shifted to focus on economic disparities between the rich and poor.

Beyond the shopping done in aisles, perhaps not surprisingly the tourist trade has been hit, too, as Bloomberg reported that tourist reservations in Paris have been cut by as much as 50 percent year on year. The estimate of that collateral damage comes from Marcel Benezet, president of the country’s Synhorcat hoteliers’ union. Famed museums have also closed access to exhibits, which, of course, means less ticket revenue through the current season.

Macron was expected to address the nation on Monday and announce new steps to try and address the riots (and, of course, stop them), but at least some lingering damage has been done.