By Ingrid Melander
PARIS (Reuters) - A court has ordered home improvement shops near Paris to close on Sundays, prompting anger about the burden of business regulation at a time when France is barely out of recession and consumers aren't spending.
The court told Castorama and Leroy Merlin to shut 15 shops in the Paris region on Sundays, a traditional day of rest, following on a complaint by competitor Bricorama, which was itself ordered last year to keep its shutters down on that day.
Earlier this week, another court ordered perfume chain Sephora, part of the LVMH group, to shut its flagship Champs-Elysee shop in the heart of Paris after 9 pm after a complaint by a labor union.
"I was shocked by the rulings," the head of the main employers' union Pierre Gattaz told BFM TV on Friday. "The law must change so that it stops wreaking havoc. It's unbearable: clients want to consume more and staff want to work more and they can't. It's crazy."
Consumer spending stagnated over the months of July and August after contracting in June, data showed on Friday.
An unexpected sharp bounce in consumer spending in May had helped pulled the country out of a shallow recession in the second quarter, with analysts saying that Friday's consumer data confirmed that the economy would likely not repeat the second quarter's 0.5 percent rebound.
Sunday has been enshrined as a day of rest in France since 1906, but myriad clauses exempt categories such as fishmongers, florists or the self-employed. Furniture and gardening stores can open, for example, but home improvement stores cannot.
The CEO of Bricorama, who was made to close 24 shops in the Paris region last year, said he was somewhat satisfied by Thursday's court ruling for the sake of fairness, but added that what he would really want is to be allowed to open Sundays.
"I am a retailer, if my clients want to come on Sundays I have a duty to be open," Jean-Claude Bourrelier told Reuters, adding that he lost 15 to 20 percent turnover on his Paris region shops after they stopped working on Sundays.
"What I want is all closed, or all open, but all equal. Otherwise it's unfair competition," he said, complaining that furniture shops such as Ikea are allowed to be open Sundays and sell tools such as drillers.
Bourrelier said he never failed to find volunteers to work on Sundays he said. One argument to convince them: they were paid three times the usual amount.
(Additional reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey and Natalie Huet Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)