Sales: a slow start for merchants

Every year, summer sales are an important time for merchants. A period that attracts customers looking for good deals. But for all that, with the pandemic, lockdowns and all health measures, trade is impacted. An impact that is felt in particular on the dates of the sales. Indeed, this year, as in the previous year, they have been delayed. This is in order to receive customers in the best conditions. But what is the current situation for French traders? While the country seems to be slowly picking up its pace of activity, the first observations are taking place. Summer 2021, the period of recovery for traders?

Expected balances, but a less optimistic result than expected

Since the lifting of the lockdown and the gradual removal of healthrestrictions, businesses have been smiling again. However, the situation is still very timid, as the number of customers is not as numerous as hoped to relaunch the activity. Between June 2019 and June 2021, in-store customer traffic decreased by 25.2%. Despite the reopening of shops, customers are still cautious about going there to make purchases.

However, the restrictions still apply as much: in small shops, reception capacities remain limited. But the setback over previous months allows customers to go to stores without risk to their health. Wearing a mask, providing hydroalcoholic solutions and marking on the ground to respect social distancing make it possible to come serenely.

In addition to this slight brake on the number of visitors to shops and shops, another phenomenon is impacting the results of the clothing trade in June 2021. The shift of the dates of the sales, to follow the lifting of the restrictions. This is reflected in the results for the month of June. The turnover of clothing saw a slight decrease in June 2021 compared to the same period in 2019… This represents a decrease of 1.3%. This seems anecdotal, but is already less so when analysing the situation in different areas of activity.

Indeed, depending on where the shops are located, the disparities emerge more widely. The most marked growth was in the Zones of Commercial Activity (ZAC), with a growth of 10.5%. These areas, located on the outskirts of large cities, offer more shops, larger. By going there, guests don’t have to wait to enter, and have more choices.

Woman shopping bags shop
The return of customers to shops is slow, but present.

Digital, downtown… The gap is gradually widening

It must be noted that the sales still had an impact on the desire of the French to return to the shops. Between the release of the first lockdown in May 2020 and June 2021, the arrival of customers at points of sale jumped by 23.5%. The recovery is slow, but gradual, and the balances are helping to give impetus to this long-awaited recovery.

Nevertheless, unlike the ZACs which are located on the outskirts of the big cities… Shops in the city center, or located in shopping centers do not know the same craze. They are experiencing a drop in their attendance of 3.7% and 11.4% respectively between June 2019 and June 2021. The areas are more limited, and therefore the capacity is much smaller than for businesses of larger size.

Another phenomenon impacts these results: the rise of e-commerce. A real lifeline during the lockdowns, it has allowed traders to sell clothes despite the closure of their establishment. And since its implementation in March 2020, e-commerce for this sector of activity has not once experienced a decrease in its activity. On the contrary, the growth is even very impressive. Consumers have become particularly accustomed to buying online for shopping, meals and even clothing purchases.

But the explosion of e-commerce is slowing down, even if growth continues. In June 2021, the growth of e-commerce is “only” 29% compared to June 2019. Its lowest level of growth since the beginning of the pandemic. Things have changed between the pre-pandemic period and today. But one thing is certain: the recovery is here.


  1. The recovery continues in June 2021 despite a disappointing start to sales. Trade Alliance press release issued on 2 July 2021
  2. Sales: what you need to know Ministry of Economy and Finance
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