Paris' Office of Tourism and the Parisian Chamber of Commerce have joined with retailers in a bid to entice foreign shoppers to come to the City of Light on discount buying trips. The initiative, inspired by similar tourist-generating deals in London and Dubai, is aimed at getting European tourists to travel to Paris to take advantage of deep price cuts over the next month.
Some 400,000 euros, or about $590,000 at current exchange, have been spent publicizing the sales as well as organizing shopping circuits and guides for visitors. A contest for free rail travel for residents of Germany and Britain was also organized.
More than 1,500 shops and 500 restaurants are participating in the program, which is also meant to boost hotel and restaurant traffic during a typically slow period of the year.
The efforts come amid what has been described as a morose holiday shopping season, marred by weak consumer confidence, transportation strikes and worries the economy will worsen over the next year.
France has also suffered a dearth of international shoppers thanks to the high value of the euro against the Japanese yen and the U.S. dollar. Retailers may need all the help they can get in generating business.
A study last week by the Ifop statistics office found that fewer French planned to spend money during the winter sales. Forty-three percent of French said they planned to wait for the sales period to purchase clothing, according to Ifop.
France boasts some of Europe's most draconian retail regulations. The government sets the dates of the sales period every season and laws forbid merchants from selling products below cost.
Changes may be imminent, though. Parliamentary debate has begun on a far-reaching proposition to amend the statutes regulating retailers. Among the bill's thorniest suggestions is the right to open on Sundays. At present, French law allows stores to open five Sundays a year, mostly during the busy holiday shopping season.