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Unbowed by COVID-19, Paris store lights up Christmas display

PARIS, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Shoppers are not allowed inside, and the pavement outside is nearly empty, but the French capital’s Printemps department store lit up its Christmas window display on Tuesday because - global epidemic or not - it is an annual tradition.

“During this special context, this difficult moment, it’s even more essential to continue this tradition,” said Printemps Artistic Director David Moliere.

The display this year at Printemps group’s flagship store on Boulevard Haussmann features fashionably dressed puppets on strings who jig along to music in a variety of winter settings including a ski resort cable car and a ship at sea.

In one tableau, a band performs in an Alpine clearing. In another, puppets on trapezes rotate around a Christmas tree on a Parisian rooftop.

In most years, the pavement outside the window is jammed with a crowd of shoppers and tourists craning to get a picture of the display on their smartphones.

But Paris is in lockdown because of COVID-19. Tourists are staying away, non-essential stores are shut, and people are ordered to stay at home unless they are on important business.

On Tuesday, only a handful of people stopped to take a photo, then hurried on their way.

“It’s a bit sad,” said dance student Rafaelle Gabon.

“I’m glad they’ve lit it up. It makes it look like there’s people, but it’s true that compared to previous years, there’s really no one around. It’s empty.”

Printemps sells make-up and clothes for high-end brands like Burberry and Gucci, and is owned by Qatari investors. It has been hit hard by the pandemic.

Four of the group’s 19 department stores will be shut down and some 450 jobs are at risk, the union which represents some of the staff said this month.

Shoppers can still buy goods from the Haussmann store, but only by connecting with a sales advisor via phone or email, with their purchase then dispatched in the mail. (Reporting by Clotaire Achie, Michaela Cabrera and Sarah White; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Richard Chang)

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