January 13, 2015 / 2:48 PM / in 3 years

Paris attacks disrupt start of French winter sales

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s winter clearance sales have got off to a slow start as the nation mourns last week’s deadly shootings in Paris.

People walk past a clothing store window with discount signs in Strasbourg, during the first day of winter sales in France, January 7, 2015. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Retailers interviewed by Reuters reported revenues down as much as a quarter during the first of the six weeks of sales.

Store groups, struggling with a stalled economy, have been banking on the sales to revive their fortunes.

“Shopping is not on people’s minds,” said retail analyst Aude de Moussac at research firm Kurt Salmon. “There are (security) fears and shoppers won’t move unless they badly need something.”

Seventeen victims and three Islamist militant attackers died in three days of shooting that began on Wednesday Jan. 7, the first day of the winter sales. The following Saturday and Sunday were marked by mass commemoration marches across the country.

Jean-Marc Genis, head of the FEH clothing retail federation, which represents chains including Etam, Zara and H&M, said revenue was down 5 percent year-on-year in the first three days of the sales.

There was a “very sharp” fall in store traffic and revenue on Sunday Jan. 11, when at least 3.7 million people took part in marches throughout France.

Small independent stores were badly hit, and are likely to suffer more than businesses with operations abroad.

Bernard Morvan, head of the Federation Nationale de l‘Habillement, which represents nearly 45,000 independent clothing stores, said sales in the women’s ready-to-wear sector fell 25 year-on-year on average and as much as 50 percent in some cases.

Discounts offered in the first days of sales were as high as 50 percent this time, but year-round promotions have also taken the shine off the clearance season.

The head of the National Association of Shopping Centres, Jean-Michel Silberstein, said store footfall during the first four days of the sales fell by over 10 percent throughout the country with a “very significant” revenue drop.

French department stores, which in big cities are more resilient to a weak economic backdrop thanks to foreign tourists and a focus on luxury goods, were also affected.

A spokeswoman at Le Printemps department store on the Boulevard Haussmann in Paris said revenue was down 10 percent in the first five days of the sales, which run until Feb. 17.

A spokeswoman for rival Galeries Lafayette also reported a slowdown in footfall and sales. Its flagship store next door to Le Printemps traditionally makes 20 percent of its annual sales during the winter clearance season.

According to Institut Francais de la Mode (IFM), the French apparel market fell 1 percent in value in 2014, a seventh consecutive year of decline that was exacerbated by unseasonably warm autumn weather.

The market is expected to shrink by a similar amount this year as French households tighten belts amid high unemployment and dwindling purchasing power.

The attacks came as the euro zone’s second-biggest economy was showing signs of improvement. Consumer confidence rose in December to its highest in two and a half years, as lower energy prices eased the strain on household finances.

Editing by Andrew Callus and Mark Potter

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