January 10, 2018 / 11:57 AM / in 9 months

France seeks to rekindle love of clearance sales

PARIS (Reuters) - France plans to cut the length of state-regulated discount sales to stoke up flagging enthusiasm among shoppers tempted by myriad bargain-hunting opportunities outside of official sale periods, notably online, the government said on Wednesday.

A banner reading "Sales" is seen on a clothing store's front window during the start of winter sales in Strasbourg, France January 10, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Retailers are also urging the government to stoke consumer interest at another time of the year with a U.S.-style “Black Friday” bumper discount spell.

The government announcement came on the start day of a six-week Winter sales period during which retailers take advantage of government authorisation to offer discounts that routinely start at 50 and even 70 percent of normal prices.

A woman walks in front of a lingerie store whose window is decorated with discount signs during the start of winter sales in Strasbourg, France January 10, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

“The trade has voiced its wish to shorten the length of the clearance sales to focus attention and to create a greater sense of urgency and desire,” junior economy minister Delphine Geny-Stephann told Le Parisien newspaper.

The plan was to cut the period to four weeks from six at the moment, she said.

It will apply for a first time for the 2019 winter sales if parliament approves the required legislative measures during the spring season.

Regarding a Black Friday spell, the Economy Ministry said in a statement: “This short promotion period over two or three days at national level, would be aimed to boost retail, notably at convenience stores.”

A sign announces "Sales" at a general store front window during the start of winter sales in Strasbourg, France January 10, 2018. Picture taken with a slow shutter speed and a zoom effect. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

The winter sales season traditionally provides an important boost for clothing stores, where turnover generated by the regulated clearance sales has fallen 7 percent since 2014 and now accounts for 20 percent of annual sector revenues, according to the FIM French fashion textiles institute.

The sales come as the euro zone’s second-biggest economy is showing signs of improvement. French consumer confidence rose more than expected in December, returning to a 10-year high reached in July after the election of president Emmanuel Macron, data from the official INSEE statistics agency showed last week.

The French e-commerce federation Fevad said this week that shoppers were expected to spend 216 euros, on average, online during this winter sales season, 17 euros more than in 2017 and 32 euros more than in 2016.

Beyond France, other countries often allow sales starting immediately after or even before Christmas, and impose fewer restrictions on when discounting happens. In Britain sales usually start on Dec. 26.

Additional reporting by Pascale Denis; Editing by Brian Love

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