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Sephora’s Late-Night Lipstick Sales Run Afoul of French Labor Laws

The Sephora store on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, 2010

Photograph by Marc Piasecki/WireImage via Getty Images

The Sephora store on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, 2010

At 11 p.m., long after most Paris shops have closed for the evening, Sephora on the Champs-Elysées is still bustling with customers browsing for cosmetics and perfume—and putting the shop in violation of France’s labor laws.

A Paris court ruled on Monday that the Sephora location must close the store no later than 9 p.m. because of a law that bans late-night working hours at most businesses. Sephora, owned by luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (MC:FP), said it will comply with the ruling and would appeal.

Unions had complained Sephora was violating the law by keeping the store open until midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends. Fifty-eight of the store’s 200 employees volunteer to work nights in exchange for extra pay, Agence France-Presse reported. More than 50 Sephora employees attended a court hearing to support the company’s position. “We’ve been stabbed” by the unions, Sephora saleswoman Ines Sampiecro told AFP. A union representative contended that Sephora had “blackmailed” employees into opposing the unions.

Sephora closes its other stores by 9 p.m. but keeps the Champs-Elysées outlet open later because it’s in what the company called an “exceptional tourist zone.” The store, according to AFP, draws 6 million visitors a year and rings up 20 percent of its sales after 9 p.m.

The ruling could have implications for other businesses that now keep their Champs-Elysées outlets open after 9 p.m. They range from fast-fashion outlet H&M (HMB:SS) to watchmaker Swatch to music and electronics retailer FNAC.

Matlack is a Paris correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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