Paris to extend opening hours for stores in 12 ‘international tourist zones’

Extended opening hours have been granted to 12 international tourist zones of Paris, including Montmartre and the Champs-Elys es, where shops will be allowed to open until midnight and on Sundays, starting this autumn. But while tourists and shoppers may welcome the opportunity to shop at all hours, the new rules are not to the liking of Paris s Socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo, who has previously warned against an always on capital that might disrupt Parisians work-life balance and kill off its corner shops. Around 200 shop employees and unionists protested against the new rules last week and there are now calls for a day-long strike on October 15.

The issue of Sunday opening hours is a thorny one in France, whose strict rules on retailers opening hours are based on a tradition of keeping Sunday a day of rest for workers enshrined in law in 1906. Since 2009, there have been some exemptions in major cities and tourist areas but this has still left many shops shut for all but a handful of Sundays per year. The controversial new opening hours are the result of a growth and activity bill tabled by Emmanuel Macron1, president Fran ois Hollande s reformist economy minister, and passed over the summer.

The zones, known as ZTIs in French, also include the Left Bank literary quarter of Saint-Germain, Le Marais – including the Ile Saint-Louis, but not Place de la R publique – Les Halles, and Saint-Honor -Vend me near the Ritz hotel. Ms Hidalgo suggested using objective criteria to decide which zones were sufficiently frequented by tourists to warrant the new status, then complained that the government had failed to take these into account or properly consult Paris councillors. The new zones are defined as having international scope due to an internationally renowned offer in commercial, cultural, heritage or leisure terms .

They also must be easily reached by a transport infrastructure of national or international importance and must attract a large number of tourists from outside France among their clientele. Extended opening hours will be unveiled for the tourist towns of Nice, Cannes and Deauville in Normandy later this month. And under another decree due next month, stores in Paris’s main railway stations will be allowed to remain open on Sundays, but not after midnight, according to Le Parisien, the capital s daily newspaper.

Big stores say that the present rules in France are antiquated and they insist that longer trading hours will help to create jobs and fight competition from 24-hour internet retailers. Some argue the changes will help Paris compete with more laissez-faire London. Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a former centre-Right minister in the Sarkozy administration, warned recently that restrictive interpretation of current laws was costing the French capital 10,000 jobs: “We have a huge problem of tourists who leave for London to shop,” she insisted.

The decision to loosen the restrictions was made by Mr Macron, a 37-year old ex-banker who has previously criticised the French 35-hour working week. Mr Macron s habit of taking on the taboos of the French Left this week extended to civil servants, who he suggested could no longer expect to enjoy a jobs-for-life status while the rest of the French workforce faced far less protected conditions. That led to him on Wednesday to be branded guilty of arrogance and ignorance by Martine Aubry, the former social affairs and employment minister and architect of the 35-hour working week.

References

  1. ^ tabled by Emmanuel Macron (www.discountholidays.info)

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