Man walking past a closed bookstore in Paris, France.

AFP via Getty Images

The French government’s decision to ban supermarkets and big retailers from selling goods deemed “nonessential” could amount to a blank check for U.S. retailer Amazon
which already enjoyed success in the country in spite of being much-maligned.

  • The lockdown originally announced by French President Emmanuel Macron last week included the closure of all bookstores, whereas big retailer chains were allowed to keep selling books.

  • After an uproar, the French government decided to ban retailers from selling books and other cultural goods such as CDs or DVDs.

  • It then extended the ban, and supermarkets will now be banned from selling  items such as clothes, shoes, beauty products, toys, jewels or household equipment, because small independent specialist stores will be forced to close.

  • Online retailers are not included in the restrictions, which mean that Amazon is now expected to become the main beneficiary of the measures, even though the government set aside €100 million to help small businesses set up online sites.

  • Amazon agreed to suspend its French advertising campaign for its Black Friday sales, due Nov. 27, on request from junior economy minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher, who said the planned campaign was “not at all appropriate.”

Read: France and Germany order lockdowns — but is France too late and facing another economic shock?

The outlook: The hesitations and u-turns of the French government illustrate the sometimes arbitrary and improvised character of lockdown measures, which are bound to hit businesses differently depending on their size. Expect more French calls to press ahead with a global digital tax on internet giants.

The row over who is banned and who isn’t will put pressure on the government when the time comes to decide whether or not to prolong the current lockdown, which expires on Dec. 1. In France, as in the rest of Europe, the Christmas season accounts to about 20% of annual retail sales.

Read: Why the U.K. and France played against type in digital tax row with the U.S.

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