Terre de Commerce, the federation of business owners in Bouches-du-Rhône, has decried the conditions in the town centre, calling their streets dirty and covered in rubbish.
The federation’s calls for a meeting to discuss the issue have as yet gone unanswered, it claims.
The conditions of the streets deter visitors from visiting independent shops even more, the shop owners argue, with their businesses already seeing negative effects from the growth of out-of-town shopping centres and online shopping. Residents have also commented on the alleged poor conditions.
In a press release, the federation described the roads and pavements as being in “indescribably dirty conditions; with papers, broken glass, and detritus”.
A shopkeeper named Marina Minard, who runs a clothes shop in Rue Paradis, was quoted in French news source 20 Minutes as saying that the summer had been “catastrophic”.
“People walking in the streets have to ‘slalom’ their way through rubbish and decomposing rats,” she said. “And while we clean our shops, all it needs is a strong gust of wind and all the rubbish comes inside.”
The shopkeepers claim to be doing everything they can to inject dynamism and growth back into the sector, but suggest that the public authorities are not keeping their side of the bargain.
“We are trying to bolster the centre by organising big clearance sales, like we did last weekend, but residents and locals attend, and the streets are not clean,” complained Tony Sessine, president of the Terre de Commerce, also speaking to 20 Minutes.
“How can people want to walk around in such disgusting streets? Even after the rubbish trucks have been, it is still dirty.”
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The high temperatures and strong winds seen over the summer months have not helped the situation, with rubbish and other dirt easily spread from street to shop, and rotting waste beginning to smell very quickly.
“Many of us travelled around this summer, and saw many clean towns, so we know that the situation is perfectly redeemable,” added Sessine. “When [president] Emmanuel Macron came to Marseille, the streets were clean, so why can’t we do it every day?”
In response, the city of Aix-Marseille-Provence, which manages the rubbish and street cleaning in Marseille, has assured shopkeepers that from the beginning of September, a new contract has been put in place to improve the conditions of the streets.
The area has been in bad condition temporarily, a spokesperson said, because only 15 street cleaners were in place between the changing of contracts. A review - with a press conference to reveal the results - of the new contract, is expected in October, the spokesperson said.
However, no meeting between the authorities and Terre de Commerce has as yet been confirmed.