Paris shuts the door to more Sunday shopping

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Paris city council decided Monday against allowing more shops to open on Sundays following an impassioned plea from the Socialist mayor to reject a "world where consumerism reigns supreme."

The vote meant that Paris' temples of shopping, the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores, will not be allowed to open every Sunday in line with new legislation adopted last year.

The law gives local governments a say in designating special tourist areas or commercial zones where shops can open on Sundays.

"Do you want a world where consumerism reigns supreme? Or a world that allows for silence, intimacy, culture, privacy, family life as well as intellectual and spiritual life?" Mayor Bertrand Delanoe told the council.

Delanoe argued that a metropolis like Paris needs "time to breathe" and that most retail workers are women who need a day off to spend with their children.

There are already seven tourist zones in Paris including the Champs Elysees where Sunday shopping is allowed, but the new legislation would expand that to other areas such as the boulevards that draw millions of tourists.

Supporters of the measure argue that it would boost the economy, creating badly-needed jobs as the country struggles with the aftermath of last year's downturn.

Genevieve Roig, of the Paris chamber of commerce, condemned the mayor's stance as "dogmatic and outdated" and argued that allowing department stores to open on the boulevards would create 600 full-time jobs.

French laws on Sunday commerce are far more restrictive than those in the United States and Britain but less so than in Germany, where special permission is needed for shops to open in Berlin.

In France, no shopping on Sundays has been a rule since a 1906 law consecrated the day of rest although bakeries, butchers and other small shops are allowed to open until noon.

Keeping retail businesses closed has helped cement the tradition of the Sunday family meal that many in France still hold dear.

President Nicolas Sarkozy stared down opposition from the church, unions, conservatives in his right-wing party and the left when he pushed through legislation allowing more Sunday shopping last year.

© 2010 AFP

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