There are silk, lace, thong, classic cotton … If the postman has done his job, the French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, should have already received the first of the almost 200 panties sent this week from all over France to the palace Matignon de Paris, seat of the Head of Government. The unusual shipment responds to the cheeky action (panties action) of a group of lingerie retailers that, distressed by the third national confinement in a year, claim to be able to open as soon as possible and that state aid arrives faster and to everyone.
“The panties represent us insofar as we are underwear stores. In addition, it has its humorous side ”, says the Parisian Aline Tran, who devised this unusual action. But behind the mischievous gesture there is a very serious question: along with the panties, Castex has received a letter explaining the “critical situation” that the sector is experiencing and a list of demands, from the demand for lingerie to be re-classified as “essential trade “To be able to open immediately, to an improvement in state aid for businesses affected by the closure. They also demand more vigilance so that large stores, such as supermarkets that are still open, do not sell underwear at this time, and that a national date is set for the start of sales. They intend to prevent the large chains from launching offers that leave no profit margin for small businesses that, like Tran’s, cannot compete with those prices to get rid of their stocks, as soon as they reopen.
“It is a way of expressing our general tiredness. This is not just to make you smile, we want to draw attention to the critical situation that hundreds of underwear stores are experiencing today, forced to close because they are not considered essential shops ”, says Tran, 36, who opened a little more than four her flirty lingerie store in the Pigalle district of Paris, not far from the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret.
His business is next to a DVD and record store that is still open despite the lockdown. Unlike the lingerie stores, the record stores have been considered this time as “essential shops”, like the bookstores and the chocolate shops or flower shops. Something that the underwear sector does not understand. “What about the panties? Are they not a question of hygiene and protection? Isn’t that the first thing we wear in the morning when it comes to getting dressed? ”The activists wonder. “I don’t understand why we are less essential than florists. The situation is absurd, ”Tran despairs.
From April 3 to at least May 3, France is experiencing its third national confinement. The closure of non-essential businesses affects 150,000 businesses nationwide. Although the Government plans to eliminate the limit of trips within ten kilometers of the home as of May 3, until the middle of the month stores will probably not begin to reopen and, more progressively still, the museums, theaters, cinemas, bars and restaurants closed since the end of October. But nothing is yet written in black on white. “The list is not definitive and could be made in a territorialized framework (…) in view of the still fragile health context, we must organize it in stages, in a necessarily prudent and progressive way,” Castex said Thursday afternoon during a press conference on the pandemic. A vague and insufficient promise, say Tran and other traders.
Lingerie angst is shared by many businesses, large and small. The presidents of 12 merchants’ federations and more than 150 major French brands sign this Thursday a rostrum in The Parisian demanding that, at the latest, they be allowed to reopen on May 10. “The strength of our brands has been overestimated,” they say. “After having lost more than 20% of the turnover in 2020, we have already lost more than 30% of the activity so far this year and each closing week impoverishes and weakens our distribution networks”, they point out. For Tran, who says there is still no response from Castex, the stake is much more than a specific business. “If small businesses close, city centers will die,” he warns.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.