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Black Friday in France: Row erupts over possible sales delay

As the economy minister calls for the shopping event to be delayed, shopkeepers call for reopening and a consumer group for more regulation

A row over major sales event Black Friday is continuing in France after the economy minister asked shops to delay it, a consumer group insists it should be regulated, and shopkeepers call for the right to open as usual.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire asked all “participants in the economy” to postpone Black Friday in light of the Covid-19 crisis, asking the senate: “Is next Friday really the right date to organise Black Friday?” The minister recommended that the day be delayed.

Black Friday is an annual shopping event, inspired by the US, in which shops hold massive sales across popular goods, ahead of the holiday shopping season.

But in France, shops selling “non-essential” goods have been closed for weeks due to the second lockdown, which is currently set to lift on December 1. The government has not yet confirmed if it will allow shops to reopen before then.

Read more: France: Bars and restaurants may not open before January 15

‘Not reasonable’ to delay

But Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux - president of small and medium enterprise association le Medef - has rejected the minister’s statement, saying that “it is not reasonable” to expect shopkeepers to delay Black Friday.

He said that instead of asking shops to delay the event, the government should allow stores to reopen from then (November 27).

Mr Roux de Bézieux said: “Everything is possible, but not nine days before. Supermarkets have prepared their catalogues, and everyone is talking a lot about Amazon, but there are plenty of French businesses that have prepared their sales.

“And this should not be a pretext to say, we are delaying Black Friday, so we will not allow you to open on November 27, which is maybe what is actually behind this.”

Read more: Influential French figures unite against Amazon

The Medef head argued that “everyone should be open” on November 27, and said that three days would not make a difference to the health situation. He said: “I cannot believe that three days later, between November 27 and December 1, that it will affect the epidemic.”

He added: “Professionals are waiting for a decision that makes sense.”

He said that shops would be very happy to enforce health rules, and put a limit on the number of people allowed inside. Mr Roux de Bézieux also suggested that shops might be permitted to extend their opening hours to make up for the enforced closure time in lockdown, and could even open on extra days in January.

He said that shops, and also other businesses that are open to the public, such as restaurants, are waiting for “a short-term, three-four month vision of a healthy co-existence, and good balance, between economics and health”.

Mr Le Maire’s office has denied that his suggestion to delay Black Friday is because the government is planning to bar shops from reopening, and said that the government has still not made a public decision on this.


Regulate Black Friday?

But consumer group UFC-Que Choisir has gone further, saying that Black Friday should not only be delayed, but tightly regulated and possibly abolished completely.

Alain Bazot, president of the group, said: “Black Friday is not at all regulated, we have done studies into this operation and it is astonishing. Black Friday does not guarantee good business in any way, the prices are ridiculous. It is simply weaponising consumer desire in customers with nonsense promotions.”

The group said that its studies had shown that many sellers artificially inflate prices ahead of Black Friday, to make it look as though the sale “price drops” are much bigger and better than they really are.

Mr Bazot said: “The capacity to be taken for a ride in this operation is huge. You don’t see this problem with regular sales. We are waiting for Bruno Le Maire to get the fraud office involved, instead of making [meaningless] gestures.

“France should regulate sales by bringing in reference prices - why isn’t Bruno Le Maire doing that? Rather than making noises about the date, he has the power to really act. It would be better to regulate Black Friday.”

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