Retailers Say Paris’ 45-Day Transit Strike Brought Economic Suffering

While the largest union of transport workers on the Paris Metro has called off its strike action, retailers are tallying up the costs of the previous 45 days of disruption.

According to Procos, the French organization promoting commerce, year-over-year turnover for the month of December 2019 fell by 4%. Sales took a similar drop in December 2018 when the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest) protests peaked.

In Paris, where disruption was concentrated, the dip was significantly more pronounced at around 18%, said the Procos study.

François du Chastel of Chatelles Slippers has a flagship store in a prime Left Bank retail space on Rue du Bac in Paris’ Saint-Germain-des-Prés. He told FN that his own sales were down 30% for December and January.

Tourism is the lifeblood of the Saint-Germain area, he said, but the transport strike has been a strong deterrent. As for his local clientele, there’s a different malaise.

Morale is at an all-time low, he said. “The French have not been in a shopping mood; everyone has been extremely grumpy.”

On the bright side, though, his online sales are up. “It’s tough to quantify exactly as we have invested a lot in web marketing to offset the effect of the strikes,” he said. “But online sales have increased by about 10%.”

“We still finished the year up, but it would have been better without the strike. We would have had 35% to 40% year-on-year growth, but now it’s only 10%. It’s annoying because we’ve been working so hard.”

While the Left Bank has been relatively protected from the impact of the Saturday Yellow Vest demonstrations that also hit retail over the last year, some brands have experienced fallout.

For one, Italian luxury footwear label Santoni, whose Paris flagship is on the central Avenue George V, was hit by both the protests and the strike.

“Our Paris boutique has been suffering,” CEO Giuseppe Santoni told FN. “We have definitely lost business. [For a period], the store was closed every Saturday.”

On Friday, France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies released figures for the country’s economic growth during the fourth quarter of 2019 that show GDP fell by 1%, compared with a 3% increase in the third quarter.

Access exclusive content