ReutersPARIS (Reuters) — Three weeks of “yellow vest” protests have hit the French economy hard, with trade in shops, hotels and restaurants falling significantly, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Monday.
Speaking after a meeting with industry groups and business federations affected by the protest movement, Le Maire said sector revenues had been hit by between 15 percent and 50 percent.
While not providing a precise breakdown, Le Maire said small retailers had seen a fall in revenue of between 20 percent and 40 percent, and the hotel industry was seeing reservations down 15 percent to 25 percent.
Restaurants, depending on their location, had seen takings collapse by between 20 percent and 50 percent.
“The impact is severe and ongoing,” Le Maire said, emphasizing it was nationwide, although Paris, after riots and looting in some of its most upmarket districts on Saturday afternoon and evening, was particularly affected.
The movement began on Nov. 17 as a social-media-planned protest against fuel-tax rises, but has since morphed into an anti-Macron uprising.
The ministry was not able to say what sort of impact the unrest would have on gross domestic product, but having hoped for a pick-up in the fourth quarter on the back of rising consumer spending, that now appears less likely.
Holiday season shopping has started poorly, according to industry group Federation du Commerce et de la Distribution, which expects a slump in hirings and a transfer of shopping to e-commerce, mainly on Amazon, a spokeswoman said.
Amazon was not immediately available to comment, but CDiscount, the e-commerce arm of retailer Casino, attributed the record number of visits to its websites partly to “demonstrations or blockades organized outside some shops.”
Market data aggregator Nielsen said Monday retail sales had contracted during three days of nationwide protest since Nov. 17, and had struggled to recover in between. It said supermarket sales had plunged 35 percent on day one on Nov. 17 and 18 percent on day two, Nov. 24.
Last week, sales were down 6 percent to 13 percent Monday through Wednesday, picked up slightly on Thursday and Friday, but then fell 8 percent again on the third day of nationwide protests on Saturday, it said.
During Saturday’s disturbances in Paris, tourists were left shocked, with some saying they would cut short their visit.
When they started, the “yellow vests” protests were focused on denouncing a squeeze on household spending brought about by French President Emmanuel Macron’s taxes on diesel, which he says are necessary to combat climate change and protect the environment.
But for the past two weekends there have also been violent demonstrations and clashes with security forces in Paris and other major cities, with protesters calling for Macron to resign. Some call it a revolution against a president who they see as out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people.Speech