The images of the 2,000 demonstrators strolling through the capital, the exceptional closure of the Christmas market and the overturned Nadar barriers are still fresh in everyone's mind in the wake of the events of Saturday 4 December.
For shopkeepers, Saturday is the most important day of the week in terms of traffic and sales. No derogation from this principle is useful for them, especially at a time of last-minute Saint Nicolas purchases coupled with Christmas shopping.
“The UCVL condemns the events that took place on Saturday and, as the right to demonstrate is fundamental, we intend to write to the mayor, Lydie Polfer (DP), to ask her not to issue any authorisation to demonstrate in the middle of the day,” Mireille Rahmé-Bley, president of the UCVL, told Delano’s sister publication Paperjam.
We need to save the weekends before Christmas.
The non-profit organisation which represents the capital’s shopkeepers says that its members are not affected by the “white marches” organised on Friday evenings in a peaceful manner against the health measures. As for Saturday’s demonstration, it hopes that the event will remain a one-off and that sanctions will be taken against the troublemakers. “We have to save the weekends before Christmas,” insists Rahmé-Bley.
“We have lost 25% of our traffic compared to last year, but I can’t say that this is linked to the event,” says Eric Santeramo, director of Feel Good Group Capital, which has 21 shops in Luxembourg.
Those located in the city centre have experienced a drop in sales, but “the Christmas market and its activities are a real plus for us; I remain positive and believe in a good December in the city”, he adds.
No proven shift in traffic to shopping centres
The same confidence is shown by Marc Muller, owner of the Maroquinerie du Passage, a business established in the upper town but also in the Belle Etoile and Ettelbruck. “This Saturday we did well in the city. I see that people want to buy local and prefer to shop in the city centre rather than in the shopping centre, but clearly any demonstration is detrimental to trade,” he says.
It’s hard to say whether customers will change their habits and head for the shopping centres rather than the upper town. “I can confirm that last Saturday our centre was very busy, but I don’t think the demonstration in the city had an impact,” says Manu Konsbruck, director of the Belle Etoile in Bertrange. The centre says it benefited from the last shopping before Saint Nicholas’ Day as well as from the gloomy weather.
At the Belval Plaza, director Thierry Debourse did not observe any postponement of visits following the event, while in the Kirchberg and Cloche d’Or shopping centres, operator Nhood mentions “an increase in visits” but attributed it to animations and pop-up novelties.
Saturday’s demonstration was unanimously condemned by the political class. In the city, businesses are recovering from a period marked by the tram construction site, the health crisis and a wave of closures. For several months, new shops have been opening and pedestrian traffic has increased on Saturdays.
Faced with these long-term elements, shopkeepers are putting the impact of last Saturday’s events, which were rather exceptional, into perspective.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.