- At Saint-Genis 2, a large shopping center located near Lyon, traders closed due to confinement can make sales by Whatsapp, Facetime or by phone.
- A system put in place by the center’s lessor to support these traders already severely affected by the spring confinement.
- A dozen brands are experimenting with this new way of selling for the moment to keep in touch with their customers and try to save the furniture.
This Monday afternoon, the alleys of Saint-Genis 2 are deserted. Most of the shops in this shopping center in Saint-Genis-Laval (Rhône), near Lyon, have lowered the curtain since October 30, the date of the start of the second confinement. In some stores, however, a few traders are bustling about on the shelves, phone in hand. Because in recent days, Saint-Genis 2 has been experimenting, like 17 other shopping centers managed by the SCC (Shopping center Compagny) in France and Belgium, with distance selling by video.
“This Visio Shop was developed in five days by the lessor last week, via our website, to try to keep our merchants afloat in all this slump”, underlines the director of Saint-Genis 2 Benjamin Tardy. Out of the hundred or so stores on the site, 27 remained open this time either in a classic way, because they were deemed essential by the government, or to manage distance selling or take out. “There are many more shops open than during the first lockdown, during which attendance fell by 70%. But there, we are all the same already on a fall of 50% “, adds the person in charge, confronted with small traders” very worried “, but” combative “.
Discover the collections in video
For the time being, around ten businesses have decided to test this distance sale, organized by Whatsapp, Facetime or by phone, once the customer has made an appointment on the Saint-Genis 2 site with the brand of his choice. Among them, the managers of the Muy Mucho decoration store did not hesitate for long before joining the Visio & Shop. A system that allows buyers to discover the collections by video and browse the shelves if they cannot wander around the store or try out different models.
“All means are good to remind us that we exist,” says 20 Minutes Rudy Stecher, co-manager of the store. We are also much more present on social networks to keep in touch with our customers ”. Considered “non-essential” during this Covid-related crisis, this independent business apprehends the end of the year and the Christmas holidays, which normally attracts a large influx. “November and December are our two biggest months of the year. We have a lot of worry and uncertainty. We wonder if we will be able to reopen before Christmas. And if we reopen, will customers be there? “Asks the manager who has put a large part of his team on short-time work and has given up paying.
Colossal financial losses
Because for him, as for the majority of stores in Saint-Genis 2, the losses related to the health crisis are colossal. “We have lost 120,000 euros. It’s hard because after the first wave, thanks to the mobilization of the team and a lot of groundwork to even better support our customers, we had returned to a good turnover ”, adds the merchant who counts on online video sales to “keep in touch” with customers.
A few shops further on, the manager of the shoe store La Scarpa, in the center for 30 years, has also decided not to give up. “I participate in these video sales to tell myself that I would have tried everything and to prevent my customers from going to buy on the Internet, loose Clarisse Thorrilhon. But given the situation, it’s a drop in the ocean ”. Since March 1, the trader has lost 40% of her turnover. A situation that she admits all the less since before the epidemic resurgence, she never lowered her guard on health rules. “The traders have done everything to protect the health of their customers and staff. Since May, I have never given up on sanitary instructions and distancing, to the point of annoying some clients who refused to apply hydroalcoholic gel ”. Like most of her colleagues, she has trouble imagining stores reopening before the holidays and fears of sinking into economic difficulties. “I took out a loan in the spring to pay my suppliers. When I have to repay, it will be very complicated ”.
Rents offered in the spring
Faced with them, the director of the shopping center wants to stay the course, convinced that the visio shop can gain strength and seems determined to support traders in this unprecedented crisis. “Without them, we are nothing,” he said, recalling that during the first wave, the SCC gave up two months’ rent to help the brands. For this second confinement, the lessor is waiting to know precisely the devices provided by the State to help traders on a case-by-case basis.
“They are doing what they can. It helps us. But the State, everything it gives us on the one hand (partial unemployment, financial aid) it takes back from us on the other with taxes. Here, our property tax has tripled this year, regrets Rudy Stecher. But we want to keep hope and keep fighting. If we let go, we just have to lower the curtain definitively ”.