(NO) Sunday Shopping à la Française

Boring boring boring small town Sunday ! Grey, cold damp and boring, because small town Sundays are always boring – Sundays are more boring than …

  • Watching someone’s holiday videos
  • Listening to someone talk about their kids
  • Listening to other guys talk about their cars or their extensive collection of power tools
  • Watching paint dry
  • Watching the full length black and white version of Ben Hur with Braille subtitles for the hard of hearing.

Yes! There are those places in the world where Sunday isn’t so boring, because there are places to go and things to do.

I am perhaps being a little unfair on my corner of small town France. Yes, things are open – the local cinema, the bowling alley, a couple of municipal museums (the sorts of museums you go to either shelter from the rain, or because you are so suicidally bored that looking at local archeological artefacts is perhaps better than slitting your own throat.) Hey, there are even some shops open on Sunday mornings, but on Sunday afternoons ….. NOTHING.

I am pleading the cause for Sunday shopping. Every other civilised country appears to have major retail chains opening up on Sunday for business – why not France????

As French trading laws stand, shops (of whatever size) are allowed to open for five Sundays a year. Most shops save up all their Sundays and open three Sundays in the run up to Christmas, one Sunday during the January Sales and perhaps one Sunday during the summer sales.

This week, the French parliament are debating a new set of trading laws that would allow shops to open for 12 Sundays a year – a veritable revolution in this most revolutionary of countries where all current revolutions are designed to maintain the status quo, rather than bring any real societal change.

I am not arguing for the complete unfettering of the French economy. God forbid. It is precisely our top heavy, cradle to grave, fully legislated and adminsitrativley annoying state of affairs that still makes this country a reasonably decent palce to live BUT what if French shops opened from midday to 4pm on a Sunday – pretty much along the British model. Those experts, well voiced in economic affairs argue that Sunday opening would create thousands of jobs for students and part time workers. Those retail chains that do openly flout current trading lawsand do open on Sunadys, argue that 33% of their weekly trade is done on a Sunday. Chains such as Ikea or most of the major French hardware superstores. Despite the fines they can incur, they open on Sundays because the profits far outweigh any government-imposed sanction.

As for the cosummer. I would welcome Sunday shopping. A tiem just to do the shopping but also, why can’t I saunter down my hight street on a Sunday afternoon to buy a book, to add a few items to my wardrobe, or quite simply get out the house and see other humans? Weekly Sunday shopping will not stop people going to mass or going hunting or doing what the French do best – sitting down with friends to gorge on vast amounts of food until they explode.

Against Sunday shopping? Well religion doesn’t come into it. The biggest opponents of Sunday shopping are the Trade Unions (Labor Unions) who claim that if shop were allowed to open on Sundays, all workers would be forced to work Sundays for fear of losing their jobs. But, the legislation is clear – any shopworker choosing to travail on the Sabbath will be paid double time and get an extra day off during the week.

Sunday opening – YES. Exploitation. NO. A plea to our elected representatives – open up on Sundays.


Of course, this is France, where trading laws smack of protectionism. It goes (and so it goes) – Large retaul chains have the means, the staff and the logistics to open on Sundays and if they do open, then small and hard-pressed shopkeepers will also have to open on Sundays and therefore have no day of rest. Perhaps we can do something here and let small shopkeepers open on all Sundays and limit the amount of Sundays that the big guys can actually open.


So, (my favourite word) I went shopping this afternoon. It got me out the house; I met people and it felt more relaxed than shopping on a normal day – perhaps we should do something.


In tourist areas, all shops are allowed to open on Sunday during the tourist season. As part of the Sunday shopping debate, there will be exemptions for International tourist areas with branches of major retail chains in Paris being allowed to open on Sundays to stop Chinese and American tourists hopping on the Eurostar to do their Sunday shopping in London.


Hey, you just have to see Paris on a Sunday. There are vast swathes of the city where everything is just closed, including the major department stores, and those areas where certain small shops are open. It’s a crazy set up.


So, please, can we have some Sunday shopping, if only to make my smalltowon Sunday less boring.