France looks to postpone ‘Black Friday’ to assist small shops affected by coronavirus

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France’s government was working on Friday to get supermarket chains and e-commerce platforms like Amazon to agree to postpone “Black Friday” promotions, responding to concerns that shops shuttered by the nation’s coronavirus lockdown are hemorrhaging business and could be hurt further if they miss out on the consumer splurge.

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With the lockdown starting to bring France’s latest virus surge back under control, the government is facing pressure to allow businesses closed as “non-essential” to reopen. But it is also mindful of the risk of infections speeding up again if restrictions are lifted too soon, too quickly. The approach of “Black Friday," on Nov. 27 in France, has brought the dilemma to a head.

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Postponing "Black Friday” by a week until real-world stores have reopened would allow them to also profit from consumer spending on cut-price goods ahead of Christmas.

A woman walks past a sticker promoting the Black Friday in the business district of Paris, France. (File photo: AP)
A woman walks past a sticker promoting the Black Friday in the business district of Paris, France. (File photo: AP)

France’s economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, said he was hopeful that a deal would be struck in talks Friday afternoon with e-commerce sites, supermarket operators and others involved to push back “Black Friday” to December 4. Real-world stores are hoping they’ll have emerged from lockdown by then.

Read more: Carrefour agrees to suspend ‘Black Friday’ sales set for November 27-29

Le Maire’s ministry said supermarket operators and e-commerce sites are looking “favorably” at a possible postponement, “in a spirit of responsibility.”

The director of Amazon France, Frederic Duval, told France Info radio on Friday before the meeting that the e-commerce distributor is ready to sign up to a delay. Its “Black Friday” promotions will be pushed back to December 4, he said. The delay applies only to Amazon France, he added.

In several other countries Amazon was launching a week of deals already on Friday.

The focus on “Black Friday” is part of what has become a wider debate in France about the lopsided effects of lockdowns, with businesses deemed “non-essential" forced to close while some big distributors and e-commerce sites have thrived as consumers have shopped online instead.

In a boost to florists, among businesses that found themselves on the “non-essential" list, the government allowed sales of Christmas trees from Friday, granting a lockdown exception to the traditional decoration that, arguably, could be regarded as perhaps not strictly essential.

Paris florist Leda Fusco was thrilled.

“If we can’t open our shops for Christmas it will be very difficult for the sector,” she said. “There are already a lot of flower shops that suffer greatly so, today, we need help and coherence.”

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