(Bloomberg)—Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, and other major retailers in France agreed to postpone Black Friday amid an outcry from smaller rivals, which have been campaigning to re-open physical stores before the promotional event.
Amazon and traditional retailers, including Galeries Lafayette, agreed to postpone the shopping holiday from Nov. 27 to Dec. 4. All nonessential stores in France have been shut since Oct. 30 when authorities imposed new restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. The lockdown is set to end on Dec. 1.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire is set to make a final decision on Friday about whether nonessential stores can reopen before the end of November.
“With other retailers and after listening to the minister’s recommendations, we told ourselves, let’s postpone Black Friday if it allows all physical retailers to reopen before Dec. 1 and let’s postpone it to Dec. 4,” Frederic Duval, general manager at Amazon France said in an interview on Radio Classique on Friday.
Le Maire said earlier this week reopening non-essential stores with a massive promotional event that could generate crowds in stores would be irresponsible amid the pandemic threat.
“What’s important is that we reopen our stores, if this priority comes with a postponement of Black Friday, we won’t argue with it,” Nicolas Houze, chief executive officer of department store owner Galeries Lafayette said during an interview on Friday with BFM Business. “Our priority is to welcome our customers in our stores and if we can do so from Nov. 27 or Nov. 28, it’s great news.”
Supermarket chains Carrefour SA, Leclerc SA, and Systeme U also said Thursday they’d either support a postponement or a suspension of Black Friday.
The decision from Amazon follows a battle for workers’ rights during the pandemic that cost the company market share.
Amazon generated 5.7 billion euros ($6.76 billion) in revenue in France last year, accounting for about 1% of retail sales in the country, Duval said. Black Friday — a U.S. import — has become a major retail event in France, generating 6 billion euros in revenue last year, according to the Finance Ministry.
The second lockdown brought ire from independent shopkeepers in France. Bookstore owners protested that supermarket chains were initially able to sell books while they themselves had to remain shut because they were deemed nonessential.
U.K. retail sales rise as holiday shopping kicks off
The volume of sales increased 1.2%, defying economists’ expectations for a modest decline, according to data published Friday. But another report on household confidence gave reason for concern, showing that sentiment is subdued and people are more worried about their personal finances.
“Low confidence is the enemy of recovery,” said Joe Staton, a director at GfK, which publishes the sentiment index. “The second lockdown couldn’t have come at a worse time for the U.K.’s high-street retailers.”
Most retail sectors have now recovered to pre-crisis levels, apart from clothing and fuel, the Office for National Statistics said Friday. Online shopping, which has boomed during the pandemic, is up 45% compared with February.
But retailers are set to take another hit this month during the government’s latest lockdown. Pantheon Macroeconomics forecasts that sales could plunge 10%, though they will bounce back in December if the restrictions on nonessential stores are lifted.
The fallout from the virus has left many businesses in financial trouble, forcing them to cut jobs or shutter stores. Earlier this month, grocery chain J Sainsbury Plc said it’s closing 420 Argos stores and starting a massive job restructuring plan to boost profitability.
The Bank of England stepped up stimulus this month in anticipation of an economic contraction in the fourth quarter. Policy makers said that the outlook is particularly uncertain because of Covid and the U.K.’s departure from the European Union’s single market on Jan. 1.
Retail sales in Canada beat expectations
Retail sales in Canada came in better than expected in September, boosted by receipts of new cars, though a preliminary estimate for October shows the momentum was short-lived.
Sales jumped 1.1% in September, Statistics Canada said Friday in Ottawa, well above the 0.2% median forecast of economists in a Bloomberg survey, and an acceleration from 0.5% in August. Sales in the month were 3.1% above pre-pandemic levels, with receipts in nine of 11 sectors exceeding the February readings.
But the better-than-expecting numbers are probably temporary. Preliminary estimates from the agency show receipts were flat in October. That’s more in line with the view from the Bank of Canada and others that the economy is in for a long slog back to full recovery. A surge in virus cases and renewed restrictions in many provinces won’t help.
“Canadian retail sales face an uncertain path over the next few months,” Royce Mendes, an economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said in a report to investors. “Moreover, with further shutdowns now looming to contain the virus, bricks-and-mortar stores will have access to less foot traffic in the months to come and many online sellers don’t get counted in the retail sales report.”
Still, the September numbers were solid. Excluding vehicles, retail sales rose 1%, versus a forecast of no change. In volume terms, they increased 1.1%.
The gains were broad-based but the major upward contributers were auto dealers and general merchandise stores. Other categories with sizable gains were furniture stores, specialty food and alcohol.
Ecommerce sales accounted for 5.6% of total retail trade in September and are up 74.3% from the same month a year earlier.