As lockdown is slowly easing and non-essential shops are getting ready to reopen, Redwood’s Rebecca reflects on the French approach to helping retailers get back on their feet. Rebecca has been working from home in the South of France and the country is due to come out of a month-long lockdown…

As all non-essential shops (in some areas) are reopening after the month-long lockdown, it brings an opportunity to look back on the impact of the closures on retailers – big and small – and on the actions the French government has taken.

Christmas is around the corner, and with-it Black Friday and Cyber Monday – an American-born event – celebrated in France for only a few years. Businesses hit hard by the crisis are hoping to make up for lost time ahead of the Christmas season.

This year is an unusual one for many reasons. French campaigners called for a Christmas boycott of Amazon. As a result, Black Friday has been postponed to the 4th December and Amazon has agreed to hold-off launching deals ‘en France’ until that date.

This is one of the many measures the French government has been trying to implement to help independent retailers in the past few months to decelerate the growth and wealth of online giants. It prevents them from advertising Black Friday and forcing them to wait for smaller retailers to reopen.

However, when it comes to general sentiment, it appears that independent retailers do not find this enough. This is mostly because the ‘non-essential’ term in itself – in the typical French way of debating everything – has been constantly discussed. It first started with a week-long debate on bookshops and their roles as a necessity for students and other occupations. It quickly escalated to how many leading chain stores have been allowed to stay partly open for what was considered essential. The purchasing of books, DVDs and CDs shelves were forbidden, while tech & multimedia, garden centre and baby clothes (up to 18-months) in supermarkets were still allowed for purchase.

December is the most important time of the year for retailers, but as Christmas approaches and shops are expecting their biggest weeks of 2020, we can only hope that the sense of community and shopping local will be able to partly cover months of loss. And with the new habits for consumers to e-shop instead of going out to purchase goods, will these measures really be helpful for independents? As of today, the question remains unanswered.