| 23 April 2024, Tuesday |

COVID-weary French cafes, stores impatient for new lockdown easing

Across France, on Tuesday, coffee-makers squashed tables and polished glasses while store managers squashed their windows while the wear-out country was preparing retail companies for a new relaxation of coronaviruses.

Within a period of little more than one year France will gradually be able to re-open non-essential retail outlets to customers in six weeks.

The René Colomban, managing the Blue Beach bar and restaurant on the Riviera city of Nice, said: “People are fed up, everyone has just another wish – to go out, go to restaurants, get out with friends or family.

With infection numbers beginning to improve and a vaccination campaign gaining momentum, retail businesses and their customers are desperate to regain a semblance of normality.

In the western city of Nantes, Alain-Loic Douchin, who manages the Taverne Royale restaurant, said his phone had been ringing off the hook with regulars making reservations.

“People are impatient, like us, to come back,” he said as he prepared for the reopening.

Economists estimate the latest lockdown had caused much less disruption than the previous two, as people adapted to working from home and businesses forced to close got by on government handouts and furlough schemes.

Even if the French return in droves to cafes and neighborhood stores as their owners hope, many retail outlets remain wary about the lingering impact of the crisis.

“Our regular customers have developed new purchasing habits on the internet and the tourists just aren’t there,” said Cecile Claris, who runs a central Paris gift shop that has been popular with neighborhood kids for four decades.

“I’m among those who realize that their business is not going to make it,” she told Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire at a roundtable discussion with local retail owners.

He tried to reassure her saying that French consumers would return to the stores and cafes as soon as coronavirus restraints were lifted and insisted retailers could continue to count on state support.

“We can’t let neighborhood retailers fall, that would be an economic and human mistake,” he said.

  • Reuters