FFE Magazine

Great French dilemma: to shop or not to shop?

by FFE EU News staff

The fight between those in favour of a no-work Sunday and those who support Sunday commerce rages on as two court rulings in France last week added fuel to the fire.

On September 26, Castorama and Leroy Merlin were ordered to close 15 Paris shops on Sundays after rival Bricorama filed a complaint. Three days before that, another court complied with a labour union’s request to change Sephora closing hours on Sundays.

Those who said that Sunday should be kept-commerce free argued about the importance of a day devoted to rest and relaxation. A law dating back to 1906 protects Sunday as a day of rest, with the exception of fishmongers, florists and other types of commerce, including those in designated tourist areas like Montmartre. Businesses which violate the law face fines up to 6,000 euros.

But recent polls suggest a changing attitude among the public, who are now in favour of expanding Sunday shopping. Those in favour of deregulation said that the lagging French economy will experience a significant boost if shops were to remain open on Sundays.

Tensions over the issue are expected to rise as the Parisian mayoral elections approaches. As early as now, candidates have stated their side on the issue: conservative Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet has proposed expanding Sunday shopping to improve France’s title as world’s most-visited country. Meanwhile, socialist Anne Hidalgo said Sunday should be reserved for the family or for charity work.

Laws vary among EU countries when it comes to Sunday commerce. Germany maintains limited opening hours on Sunday, while Britain and struggling countries like Italy and Greece have loosened their rules to boost consumer spending.

Under former right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy, France relaxed restrictions. Current socialist President François Hollande, however, isn’t likely to follow suit.

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