Kingfisher boss Ian Cheshire has warned that the DIY giant could be forced to close stores in France if the Government there refuses to amend “incoherent” Sunday trading laws.
Cheshire told Retail Week if the Government insisted on prohibiting DIY retailers from opening stores on Sundays, Kingfisher, which operates market leading Castorama in France, would have to close a “small number” of stores in the country.
He said that some shops generated between 15% and 20% of their sales on a Sunday, and that if they were forced to close on that day, they would “become unviable”.
“It would be a small number but it makes a difference,” said Cheshire.
Under French law, DIY retailers must stay shut unless they are in tourist areas or have a special dispensation from the local mayor. Castorama has been opening stores on Sundays having been granted permission from local mayors, but the Government is now urging mayors not to abuse their powers by allowing DIY retailers permission to open on Sundays.
Last month six Castorama stores in France were sent court rulings demanding they shut on Sundays. Castorama ignored the ruling and opened anyway, and staff protested against the Government’s moves to prevent Sunday trading.
Businesses have long argued that the Sunday trading rules are complicated and contradictory. For instance garden centres and furniture shops are allowed to open on Sundays, yet DIY stores cannot.
The Government has launched a review into the law, which critics say is out of kilter with France’s economic fragility. France is suffering from record unemployment.
Cheshire said he had met Government representatives and submitted evidence to the review.
He added that online retailers can trade “24/7” meaning that bricks and mortar stores would be at a disadvantage if they had to close one day out of seven. “It will be a problem for physical stores,” he said.