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France Should End Store Restrictions, Vente-Privee Founder Says

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Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) -- French regulations barring shopkeepers from opening Sunday and after 9 p.m. are antiquated, according to the founder of online retailer Vente-Privee.com.

“The laws sometimes have to be open to the new world, and the new world is business that never stops,” entrepreneur Jacques-Antoine Granjon said in a phone interview. “Where there is a need and where you have people who are ready to work, they should let them work.”

The French government is studying a 1906 law that forbids most non-food retailers from opening Sunday as some stores clash with unions over trading hours amid the highest metropolitan unemployment rate in 14 years. Last month, a court ruled do-it-yourself retailers Kingfisher Plc’s Castorama and Groupe Adeo’s Leroy Merlin should stay shut Sundays, while LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA’s Sephora chain was ordered to close its Champs Elysees branch by 9 p.m. on weekdays.

Vente-Privee, which sells branded goods at discounted prices in eight European countries and in the U.S., is reaping the benefits of fewer restrictions for online merchants. The third-most-visited website daily in France after Amazon.com Inc. and EBay Inc. forecasts revenue will rise 15 percent to 20 percent this year with growth in all its markets, including Spain and Italy, Granjon said. Sales reached 1.3 billion euros ($1.8 billion) last year.

“The potential of this company is huge,” he said. “We have a long view of developing” it.

Sales in the U.S., which Vente-Privee entered in November 2011 through a joint venture with credit card company American Express Co., may as much as double this year to $50 million, Granjon said. The unit, based in Manhattan, should reach its goal of being profitable by 2015, he said.

Vente-Privee doesn’t plan to hold an initial public offering as it has enough cash to fund investment and is profitable, Granjon also said.

“I’m not in a business where I’m looking for growth at any price,” he said. “For me, profitability and growth together is very important because it’s the only way for me to keep the company independent financially.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Roberts in Paris at aroberts36@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net

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