The credit crunch bites even in St Tropez
Businesses at the traditional summer haunt of the rich and famous report a dramatic drop in sales and change in behaviour of holidaymakers.11 August 2008
ST TROPEZ - Luxury retailers, hotels and other high-end services have reported a dramatic drop in business in St Tropez, a traditional summer haunt of the rich and famous, as the credit crunch bites.
The number of yachts dropping anchor is said to be down 50 percent while retailers say the high-rolling spending of previous years has become the preserve of only a tiny minority.
In an exclusive boutique selling Italian designer clothes, a sales assistant said the credit crunch had seen a significant change in spending patterns.
"Last year, a customer who left with EUR 8,000 worth of purchases, it was a basic sale. This summer, when we sell EUR 3,000 or 4,000 worth, we're happy," the sales assistant said.
In previous years, the shop was so busy that there were never enough changing rooms and customers were still arriving at closing time, said another assistant.
In another Italian designer shop, overall turnover for July was up but the number of individual sales had dropped, said one employee.
"We have made fewer sales but for sums that were often very considerable... one customer left with items worth more than EUR 50,000," she said.
The only people still spending big in the French Riviera resort, she added, were those for whom there was virtually no limit.
"Yachts of more than 40 metres belonging to the super rich are still there, but with the 15 to 35 metre yachts, there is a very big drop in numbers," said Guy Chevalier who runs a taxi-boat service charging customers EUR 80 a time to be ferried to and from their boats.
"We are easily at a third of last year's business, there are far fewer people coming to Saint Tropez just to anchor for the evening," he said.
According to port director Herve Le Fauconnier the number of visiting boats is down by a half on last year.
"This summer an average of 30 boats are anchored compared to some 60 in previous years," he said.
Hotel staff also reports that city types are spending their days keeping track of the stock markets rather than relaxing.
"I have never seen this - before our clients came here for a total break.
This year they are at their computers from 8:00 am," said one worker at the four-star Yacca hotel.
At the nearby La Ponche hotel, staff point to a pile of faxes detailing vacancies at other establishments.
"In four years, it's the first time that I have received this type of message. Unfortunately, we are far from being full, unlike last summer," said an employee.
"People who have a lot of money are ready to spend but they have become more demanding over quality," added estate agent Astrid Michel.
"When you spend EUR 1,500 a day on a private beach, you expect a high level of service. In Saint Tropez, however, it has not always been the case," she added.
[AFP / Expatica]