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        Countries in Focus: France

        Led by Emmanuel Macron, founder of the centre-left En Marche (Forward) party, France boasts the third largest economy in the EU after Germany and the UK.

        Although France emerged from the financial crisis more intact than many of its neighbours, it continues to report a high unemployment rate of just under 10% and its debt levels continue to increase.

        Macron’s star is thought to be waning, with thousands recently protesting against his reforms, which included giving businesses more flexibility in negotiating wages and conditions with workers, and limiting damages paid out to employees for unfair dismissal.

        In recent years, France has been blighted by horrific terrorist attacks in Nice, Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray and Paris. This has led to growing support for far-right parties such as the National Rally, formerly known as the Front National (National Front).

        While the attacks had an immediate impact on consumer confidence and tourism, France remains the most popular holiday destination in the world, attracting more than 80 million tourists each year.

        The retail outlook

        Retail sales continue to rise – increasing 2% in value to €506bn (£442bn) in 2017 – and ecommerce growth, like many other nations, continues to outpace physical sales, with online sales up 14% to €81.7bn (£71bn) in 2017. This is expected to surpass the €100bn (£87bn) threshold in 2020.

        The country has a strong department store sector. According to Kantar Group, department store sales in France increased 4.1%, compared with 0.4% for the wider clothing market. There are concerns over the imbalance of taxes paid by pureplays compared with bricks-and-mortar retailers and French lawmakers are considering proposals to counteract this.

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        People

        Hilary Ross

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