France postpones ‘Black Friday’ to help locked-down shops

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An elderly man wears a face mask as he walks on the Champs Elysee avenue, in Paris, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. France has surpassed 2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, the fourth-highest total in the world. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

PARIS (AP) — France’s government on Friday got 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.

Under the deal brokered by the economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, “Black Friday” in France will now be pushed back by a week to Dec. 4, with the understanding that lockdown-shuttered businesses will have been allowed to reopen by then.

The ministry said support for the delay ended up being unanimous among commerce, e-commerce and supermarket representatives who took part in two days of talks. It said a “spirit of responsibility and solidarity” prevailed.

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,” originally scheduled for Nov. 27 in France, had brought the dilemma to a head.

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

The director of Amazon France, Frederic Duval, told France Info radio on Friday before the meeting that the e-commerce distributor was ready to sign up to a delay. Its “Black Friday” promotions will be pushed back to Dec. 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 Ieda 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.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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