In Paris, ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests Cut Sharply Into City’s Luxury Trade

From the Champs Élysées to Avenue Montaigne and alongside the Rue St.-Honoré, the glossiest and most glamorous procuring streets of central Paris are often bustling on Saturdays in December.

Tourists and native residents alike, a lot of them sporting fur or cashmere and laden with baggage, hurry into glittering temples of French heritage like Chanel and Dior, Longchamp and Ladurée to top off on vacation items.

This 12 months, that has modified.

Five straight weekends of demonstrations in opposition to President Emmanuel Macron and his financial insurance policies by members of the so-called Yellow Vest motion have induced a few of the worst civil unrest France has skilled in additional than a decade. Storefronts have been smashed, vehicles have been set ablaze and a few of Paris’s best-known landmarks have been broken.

The variety of protesters dwindled considerably this previous Saturday in contrast with earlier weekends, however many outlets had been closed nonetheless in anticipation of additional violence, together with these owned by the French group Kering, together with Gucci, Balenciaga.

The luxury-goods trade, one in all France’s prime export classes and a significant driver of tourism in Paris, has been hit onerous throughout its most necessary month of the 12 months. A police lockdown and fears of widespread vandalism prompted executives at a number of high-profile firms to shut their Paris shops, and their mouths, after some protesters seized on French vogue logos as symbols of inequality and elitism.

Some chief executives, nonetheless, did stick their heads above the parapet.

Some people in the industry expressed concerns that luxury brands could become targets in a workers’ revolt against the increasingly unpopular Mr. Macron.

“It is a grim situation for those retailers,” Mr. Kamel said. “Just how bad will be seen when sales figures are released early next year.”

Until the protests began, Mr. Kamel said, “it had been a relatively decent year” for luxury spending.

“For France as a brand, for luxury players, who are a major reason many people travel here, these are nerve-racking times,” he added.

Yet, there a quiet sense of defiance was in evidence on some street corners.

Around the Place Vendôme, a hub of luxury jewelry shops and designer stores, rioters had smashed windows and built barricades on recent weekends. Many of the shops had boarded their windows up entirely, blocking everything inside from view.

Other stores, like Louis Vuitton, created giant, clear barriers instead, allowing a showcase for sparkling Christmas trees framed by expensive shoes, handbags and accessories, a reminder that those dream purchases were still available, if out of reach for many.

Jean Cassegrain, the chief executive of Longchamp, said some of his Paris stores were closed and security had been added at others. But he emphasized that luxury brands were not the primary object of the protesters’ ire.

“The protests did not target luxury stores specifically: bus stops, cafes, construction sites, cars were also damaged,” he said. “This is a moment in the life of the city. Paris remains a great and enjoyable city for residents and for tourists.”

Nevertheless, for an industry that builds itself on trading in branded aspiration and fantasy, the recent upheaval in luxury’s capital city has undeniably tarnished that image. Just how badly will only become clear in the coming weeks.

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