Protests in France disrupt retail in crucial shopping period

French President Emmanuel Macron will address the country on Monday as he seeks to placate “yellow vest” anti-government protesters who wreaked havoc in Paris at the weekend.

On Saturday, protesters, for the fourth weekend in a row, threw stones, torched cars and vandalised shops and restaurants in a protest against Macron’s economic policies.

The upheaval in the Christmas shopping season has dealt a heavy blow to retailing, tourism and manufacturing as road blocks disrupt supply chains.

On Saturday, the Eiffel Tower and several museums closed for security reasons, as did top Paris department stores on what should have been a prime shopping weekend.

The French retail federation, FCD, told Reuters last week that retailers have lost around 1 billion euros ($1.6 billion) in revenue since the protests started.

“It has a particularly heavy impact on customers who want to do their shopping before the holidays, for suppliers who can no longer deliver, for employees unable to get to work and for shops, which have reported huge losses,” the FCD said in a statement.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the protests will have “a severe impact” on the economy, as he toured a heavily looted Paris neighbourhood.

“We must expect a new slowdown of economic growth at year-end,” he said.

At a meeting with industry groups and business federations on December 3, Le Maire said that small retailers had seen a fall in revenue of between 20 and 30 percent while visitors were staying away, according to France24.

Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud said on television that Macron would announce “concrete and immediate” measures but this would not include boosting the minimum wage.

“Increasing the minimum wage would destroy jobs. Many small business cannot afford it and risk going bankrupt,” she said.

Macron’s last televised address was on November 27 when he said he wouldn’t be bounced into changing policy by “thugs”.

He since cancelled a rise in fuel taxes to try to defuse the situation but the protests have morphed into a broader anti-Macron rebellion.

Authorities say 136,000 people took part in protests across France on Saturday, including 10,000 in Paris. More than 1709 were arrested. More than 100 remain in custody.

“We cannot let people think they can come to trash everything and then happily go back home without facing judicial sanctions,” Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz told reporters.

Named after the fluorescent yellow safety vests French motorists must carry, the protests erupted on November 17.

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