Christmas may be ‘lost’ with firms fearing billions of losses as shoppers stay away
The Christmas shopping surge in Paris may already be “lost” as businesses fear warzone-like scenes in the French capital will deter visitors and cost them billions of euros.
Tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon were used during violent protests over the weekend which saw more than 130 people injured and 412 people arrested.
Cars were torched, shops smashed up and rocks hurled at police as “yellow vest” protesters rampaged in the streets around the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees.
French finance minister Bruno Le Maire met business leaders on Monday and said the impact was already “severe and ongoing”, with shops and restaurants reporting takings down between 20 and 50%.
Hotel reservations have slumped 15 to 25%, he added.
Retail groups say the lucrative festive period, when takings normally jump dramatically, could have been dealt a killer blow by the anarchic scenes broadcast around the world.
“The lost revenue and losses, especially in food services, is going to be in the billions of euros,” said Jacques Creyssel of the FCD retail federation.
Saturday’s protest had “decimated the welcoming image of Paris and France,” said Roland Heguy of the CAT tourism federation, warning that this Christmas season was “at risk, if not already lost”.
A manager of the Alsace brasserie on the Champs Elysees told Le Parisien he had lost €50,000 on Saturday after evacuating customers through a back door and closing for the day.
With protests taking place across the country, Oil giant Total said 75 of its petrol stations had run dry as demonstrators blocked access to 11 fuel depots.
President Emmanuel Macron – who has cancelled a trip to Serbia over the unrest – said people “shouldn’t underestimate the shock to people, in France and abroad, of seeing in the media what looked like war scenes”.
The protests started nearly three weeks ago as a response to green taxes on diesel that have pushed up the cost for many drivers, with another hike due next month.
However, people are now taking to the streets in cities across the country over the general rise in the cost of living and a feeling that President Macron is out of touch with normal people.
Saturday’s violence is believed to have been fuelled by far-left and far-right activists, some of whom wore gas masks as police responded with tear gas.
Paris’s police chief said officers fought demonstrators who were carrying hammers, gardening tools, bolts, aerosol cans and rocks.