French Retailers to Close This Weekend as Paris Braces for More Protest Violence

Tensions ran high in Paris Friday as the French capital braced for further mayhem from demonstrations over the weekend, with department stores planning to close on Saturday and authorities warning people steer clear of parts of the city.

The lockdown comes at a time when the holiday shopping season is normally entering full swing; instead the city is gripped by the possibility of more violence, with the government pledging to employ 8,000 troops and a dozen armored vehicles in Paris, and 89,000 troops around the country.

Galeries Lafayette, Printemps and Citadium said they would close on Saturday but resume business on Sunday.

Symbolized by demonstrators wearing yellow safety vests, the protest movement started out as discontent over a fuel tax but has broadened to encompass a range of frustrations over declining living standards, taking a violent turn that has caught the country by surprise.

A section of the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré will be entirely sealed off for the fourth weekend in a row to protect the Élysée presidential palace.

The forced closures have affected 69 stores, including the Hermès flagship and boutiques belonging to Chanel, Valentino, Saint Laurent, Tod’s and Loro Piana, resulting in millions of euros of lost business, said Benjamin Cymerman, president of the Comité du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

“Most of the people working in the area get paid on commission, so we also expect a big impact on their pay packets at the end of the month. This situation has serious economic consequences for our neighborhood,” he said. “[The losses] run into the millions of euros.”

Over the past weekends, violent demonstrations have turned the famed Avenue des Champs-Élysées into a battlefield, with smoke-filled Images of burning cars and vandalized stores and banks, and vandalism on monuments including the Arc de Triomphe.

“We are faced with people who aren’t there to demonstrate but to cause destruction. We are going to ensure that they don’t have a free hand to do so,” French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said on French television channel TF1 Thursday night.

“These are truly exceptional measures because we don’t want — again — the republic, its institutions, collective security to be jeopardized,” he added.

The American Embassy in Paris advised people to avoid areas where demonstrations are planned, noting the march is expected to lead from Place de la Bastille to the Arc de Triomphe Saturday.

The French government announced emergency measures to help retailers compensate for lost business due to the several weeks of anti-government protests, with demonstrators blocking roads and vandalizing stores, causing foot traffic to plummet during the crucial holiday spending season.

Retail sales were down 35 percent compared with the same period a year ago on Nov. 17, on the first weekend of protests, and fell 18 percent on Nov. 24, according to Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.

This story was reported by WWD and originally appeared on WWD.com.

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