French Department Stores See Growth, Gloom

French consumers will lift spending on fashion and household items during this month’s sales amid concerns the country is tipping into a recession, according to department-store operators Galeries Lafayette SA (GL) and Printemps.

Galeries Lafayette expects 250,000 shoppers to spend 10 million euros ($12.8 million) at its Paris store today, the first day of the winter sales, Agnes Vigneron, the unit’s manager, said in an interview.

“I don’t think the economic climate is going to impact us during the sales period,” Vigneron said. “It’s a celebration time, something the French don’t want to miss. Right now is when they want to indulge themselves.”

The retailer expects revenue to rise 14 percent during the winter sales, which run through Feb. 14, she said. Rival Printemps, whose flagship Paris store is opposite Galeries Lafayette, forecasts that sales will increase 15 percent to 20 percent, store manager Pierre Pelarrey said. The winter and summer sales account for about 20 percent of each retailer’s annual revenue.

“I’m rather confident for the sales,” said French Finance Minister Francois Baroin, who cut a ribbon at Galeries Lafayette to mark the start of the discount period. “In those difficult times that some say are gloomy, in those uncertain times we need to do everything to support consumer spending, which is the main driver of the French economy.”

Consumer confidence in the country held near its lowest in almost three years in December as the public remained concerned about unemployment and said financial conditions were worsening, national statistics office Insee reported last week.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Roberts in Paris at aroberts36@bloomberg.net; Caroline Connan in Paris at cconnan@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sara Marley at smarley1@bloomberg.net

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