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Retail Clothing Industry – One Job in Ten May Go by End of Year

Translated Friday 5 July 2013, by Gene Zbikowski

As the traditional summer sales open on June 26, the retail clothing industry is worrying about the repercussions of a season that has been worse than simply morose. One job in ten could go by the end of the year if the trend continues.

Caught between bad weather and the recession, the retail clothing industry has been suffering. While the arrival of the summer sales might, if not reverse the trend, at least salvage something, the retail clothing industry fears catastrophic repercussions by the end of the year.

“If we screw up the sales and the winter season isn’t good, at the end of the year, one job in ten in the sector will be threatened,” warned Bernard Morvan, the president of the National Retail Clothing Federation (FNH). “And this threat is dangling over the heads of 80,000 workers – Can you get your head around that?!”

According to the French Fashion Institute (IFM), last month the sector chalked up a 10% fall compared to May 2012, and overall losses are running from 7% to 14% for the first four months of the year, according to the distribution networks.

Fewer French people will shop the sales this year.

For all that, Bernard Morvan, who also chairs a company, is trying to remain confident. While praising the good weather that has come in time for the first day of sales, he states that his own shops are reporting positive results. “This morning, there’re people in the shops!” he announced joyfully.

But his optimism runs counter to the polls. According to an Ipsos poll of 900 people, 29% of the French are ready to give up on the sales, whereas last year it was just 23%. Similarly, the average sales budget has fallen from 223 to 208 euros. A Pouleo/CCM Benchmark poll of 1200 people shows that, overall, 69% of the French are keeping a closer eye on their spending than a year ago.

The end of “soldes flottantes” [1]

Amid the ambient stagnation, Socialist deputy Annick Le Loch yesterday tabled an amendment eliminating the two weeks of “soldes flottantes” accorded to retailers since 2009, counterbalanced by an increase in the two traditional sales periods from five to six weeks. “The consumer no longer knows what the exact price is because the “soldes flottantes” result in additional confusion in an environment in which sales, mark-downs, promotions and clearance sales are all jumbled together,” the deputy stated.

Bernard Morvan says the solution is quite insufficient: “They’re making a big fuss about this amendment which doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. In reality, retailers are already mainly using the two weeks of “soldes flottantes” to lengthen the sales period.” The president of the FNH says it’s necessary to go back to square one. “Aren’t the prices of our goods too high?” he asked. “We anticipate the sales by upping prices, and that isn’t the solution. We’ve got a system that is handed down from by-gone practices. Everything’s got to be changed,” he added. The FNH is waiting for a round table meeting on the subject.

[1In France, retailers are entitled to two sales periods at specific times (the first one usually starts mid-January and the next one begins at the end of June). They have, however, been entitled to plan two extra weeks of sales during a period that they are free to choose; that is to say, they are allowed to position those sales at whatever time of year they wish. Those sales are called “soldes flottantes.”

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