In addition to the mass-market stores, some 402,000 small food shops – bakeries, butchers, delicatessens, cheese makers, early vegetables, etc. – are also allowed to remain open during this confinement period. The president of the General Confederation of Retail Food, Joël Mauvigney, deplores the fact that the role of these traders is not sufficiently emphasized by the government.
In this period of crisis and confinement, what is the state of mind of the profession?
JOËL MAUVIGNEY. It is positive insofar as our companies have been authorized to continue their activity and thus give “food” to the French. Obviously, we must adapt and reinvent ourselves in the face of the scale of this epidemic. Some of us manage to maintain – more or less – our turnover: this is notably the case for the baker, the butcher, the pork butcher, fruit and vegetables. For others, however, the situation is more complicated. Pastry chefs, for example, only make 20% of their usual sales. It is even worse for other types of businesses, such as glaciers and chocolatiers, which have been forced to close. But in this context, what puts us apart from us is above all to see that in government, we have been forgotten!
What do you mean exactly?
Some ministers never talk about us. Like Bruno Le Maire who cites only large retailers. We say to consumers: “Go to supermarkets, you will find everything you need”. But with us too, you will find everything you need. And that, nobody says! There are only for supermarkets! However, we too are maintaining our activities. We too have valiant employees, happy to be there, who have contact with customers and who therefore take risks.
What are the precautions you take in your businesses?
We obviously apply all the sanitary rules: marking on the ground so that there is a meter away; we bring our customers in drop by drop. Hand washing was already part of our daily life, as were gloves. We also tried to get gel. The big difficulty is the masks. But our customers, regulars like the others, see what we have put in place. They are grateful that we are open. Especially since the difference with a large area is that with us, there are discussions, a link. We take news from each other, especially from our elderly clientele. We call them if we do not see them for several days, some of us have also organized to deliver products, meals to the most disadvantaged. There is a surge of solidarity. And we would like that to be underlined.
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What exactly are you asking the government for?
Just don’t forget us, also talk about our role, the efforts made. There is also a lot of hypocrisy in the speeches when I see the CEO of Carrefour or Auchan offer a bonus of 1,000 euros to cashiers, to the people who fill the shelves. Do you know why they do this? Because these people who are paid the minimum wage would receive as much if they stepped back. However, they need them.
And you, if you can, will you pay this premium?
We are not going to do anything because our employees are not paid the minimum wage. That’s all the difference! If we experience a drop in activity, many of us will go out of our pocket rather than reducing the hours of work of our employees. There may be partial unemployment in our most affected businesses, there may be some withdrawal rights. But it will be far from the majority, believe me.