PARIS (Reuters) – People keen to get their haircuts lined up outside barber shops and department stores selling Christmas gifts and decorations were busy on Saturday as France partially reopened after a lockdown of a month.
Stores selling non-essentials such as shoes, clothing and toys have reopened in the first easing of a nationwide lockdown that began on October 30 and will remain in place until December 15. Bars and restaurants remain closed until January 20.
“Today we have people who have been waiting for weeks while others are coming now so they can look good for Christmas because you never know what will happen next,” Remi Thor told Reuters, a hairdresser from the center of Paris.
A hairdresser from J-Coiffeur in western Paris said that despite their online reservation system, people showed up without a reservation anyway and lined up outside.
“Under the current rules, they cannot wait inside,” he said.
As a condition of reopening, the government reduced the number of people allowed in stores, a challenge for small outlets.
In Printemps – whose 19 luxury department stores have a combined surface area of 180,000 square meters – the manager of the flagship store on Boulevard Haussmann in Paris, Pierre Pelarrey, said the store was monitoring footfall closely.
“We are calculating the traffic in real time to make sure we are within the limit on the number inside,” he told Reuters.
Many small business owners complained that it was difficult to operate under the new rules and said traffic was slow as customers postponed their purchases to Black Friday, which was delayed for a week until 4 December.
The deputy mayor of Paris, Emmanuel Grégoire, told franceinfo radio that the mayor, Anne Hidalgo, would speak with retail organizations to allow them to open on Sunday to make up for lost sales.
“2020 will be a catastrophic year for everyone, but to limit the damage, December will be crucial,” he said.
The government has already allowed stores to open until 9 p.m. so that they can receive more customers despite the area limits.
At Pasteur Hospital in the Mediterranean city of Nice, whose intensive care unit doubles its normal bed capacity due to COVID-19, intensive care manager Carole Ichai said she hoped people would be responsible.
“I hope we will not regret this opening. The traders are making an effort, now everyone must take their liability seriously, ”she said.