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Yellow as this season’s colour

PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 08: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Protesters chant slogans during the 'yellow vests' demonstration on the Champs-Elysees near the Arc de Triomphe on December 8, 2018 in Paris France. ''Yellow Vests' ('Gilet Jaunes' or 'Vestes Jaunes') is a protest movement without political affiliation which was inspired by opposition to a new fuel tax. After a month of protests, which have wrecked parts of Paris and other French cities, there are fears the movement has been infiltrated by 'ultra-violent' protesters. Today's protest has involved at least 5,000 demonstrators gathering in the Parisian city centre with police having made over 200 arrests so far. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun/The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)



It is the seventh time that the Yellow Vests have been marching across France’s metropoles. From Paris to Marseille, the crowds wearing neon yellow vests have been gathering every Saturday since November 17th to display their anger at the government and its recent policies. A movement that started from the announcement of increased taxes on fuel, has now turned into a much larger display of the public’s discontent with the government. So what does it mean for the

fashion and retail sector of France?

Damage and looting

December 1st saw the worst clashes between the protesters and the forces of order; it also saw countless boutiques, restaurants, offices and some historic monuments vandalised. Some of the most prominent high-end fashion brands, including Chanel, had their stores looted in Paris with hundreds of thousands of euro worth of damages and stolen goods. As a result, the following Saturday demonstrations saw Paris and other regional centres reinforced by the French security services with as many as 1700 arrests made across the country. The following protests had seen arrests continue, albeit in smaller numbers.

Effects on fashion industry

According to the latest reports by Le Parisien, 500 businesses have been vandalised, with the small individual shops being the prime victims. The grand stores have suffered as well with Galleries Lafayette reported to have lost €5 million on December 8th alone due to the closure by the police to avoid any damages and looting.

It should be noted that the luxury fashion in France is one of the top sectors bringing in €150 billion in 2016 alone. According to gouvernement.fr, the fashion sector shared 2.7% of the French GDP in the same year with over 300 fashion shows happening annually in the capital. Stores have been closing every Saturday since the start of the Yellow Vests movement, resulting in 35% drop in sales compared to the same period a year ago. According to the National Council of Shopping Centres, the movement caused a total loss of €2 billion since its start. The timing of this movement may just prove to be extremely damaging across retail and other sectors, including hoteliers, food & beverage and transport as practically as everywhere in the world, the holiday period is one of the most important for the businesses in France with tourists as well as residents making their many purchases.

What’s to come

While the numbers of the Yellow Vests are diminishing with each coming Saturday, it is unknown when the protests will stop. Saturday the 29th of December had about 800 people protesting in Paris, with 12000 people across France in total. However, considering the current trend, the country is in for at least a couple of more weeks of these protests leaving the brands in the middle of it all. To make matters worse, the men’s and the haute couture fashion weeks are set to begin in the second half of January, putting the brands under more pressure than they would normally endure.

Considering the past couple of years, Paris has had its fair share when it came to reinstating itself

as a world tourism capital that is safe and secure. The city has done an incredible job with breaking a record of 23 million hotel arrivals in 2017 (an increase of 11% from 2016). However, this movement has definitely caused unrest as well as damage, even though some of the demands have already been addressed by the government, including a complete U-turn on the fuel tax that started the Yellow Vests in the first place. In the end, while the future of this movement is unclear, it is most likely that the Yellow Vests will continue their demonstrations for some time, possibly causing more losses to the fashion industry – a sector that is tightly integrated into the country’s economy and image.

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