Finding a parking space around the bustling wholesale market of Aubervilliers in northern Paris used to be a harrowing experience.
During the peak season, bulk buyers from across Europe often had to wait in queues before getting a parking space.
After all, Aubervilliers is the continent's largest wholesale hub of Chinese goods where one could get trendy but inexpensive products - from garments and footwear to glasses and toys.
It's still the largest hub, but now "you can easily find a parking space there.” Zheng Pinhai, chairman of Sino-French Business and Trade Association, said.
Run by businesspeople from mercantile Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, the market has seen its sales halved since fall when Chinese exporters lost orders because of the global financial crisis.
"Orders have shrunk by the day since September and the situation is still worsening," said Zheng, now in China to discuss with manufacturers how to minimize the impact of the financial crisis.
Known for their business acumen, Wenzhou traders have for the first time in a decade found that it is not easy to make big profit by selling inexpensive goods overseas.
Ren Kaifu, who runs four outlets in the central business area of Aubervilliers, said he had been losing money in the past few months.
"As the weather gets colder, so does my business," he said. In fact, he is going to close one of his shops to cut his losses and prevent his extended businesses from collapsing.
Consumer and business confidence in the European Union slumped to a 23-year low last month, according to French newspaper Les Echos.
November also saw Sino-French trade dip 4 percent month-on-month to $3.2 billion, according to Customs figures, reflecting a diminishing appetite for Chinese goods.
Weak global demand has made people dealing in "low-end goods" in Aubervilliers particularly vulnerable, said Zhao Zhongxiu, a professor in Beijing-based University of International Business and Economics.
"They have to cut costs, improve cash flow and reduce working capital" to stay afloat, he said.
（英语点津 Helen 编辑）
About the broadcaster:
Nancy Matos is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Nancy is a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism and Media program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Her journalism career in broadcast and print has taken her around the world from New York to Portugal and now Beijing. Nancy is happy to make the move to China and join the China Daily team.