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Types of Outlet

Hypermarkets, supermarkets and mini-markets
Located on the outskirts of towns. They sell foodstuffs and non food products. Mini-markets are smaller and located in town. Some offer "click and drive" services that allow a consumer to order groceries online that will be ready for pick-up.
Système U
Specialized Hypermarkets
Hypermarkets specialize in one family of products.They offer an extensive choice of goods in a specific category at a competitive price and with an emphasis on customer service.
DIY: Leroy Merlin , Castorama , Conforama
Culture and Domestic appliances: Fnac-Darty
Sport: Decathlon
Toys: Toys’r’us
Department stores
Located in the town center on several floors. High-quality supermarkets dating back to the turn of the 20th century, they have various specialized departments, and usually have gourmet food sections.
Les Galeries Lafayette
La Samaritaine
Le Bon Marché
Hard discount
Mainly for food. They sell products of the distributor's own brand or none brand at all. People prefer them for their discount prices.
Small shops
Specialized local shops: grocers, butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers, cheese shops, delicatessens, bakeries, cake shops, florists. People prefer them for the quality of their products, human contact and advice.
Cash and Carry
Hypermarkets reserved for professionals especially.
Gas station marts
Small self-service food store frequently used for stop-gap purchases. Located in the gas station, airport, train station, highway

Evolution of the Retail Sector

Growth and Regulation
According to USDA’s Report Retail Foods 2021, in 2020, the largest French retailers continued investing in smaller stores in city centers. The overall retail food sales in France were estimated to $394 billion, and specialized food stores at (frozen food stores, organics and open-air markets) $35 billion. France is a competitive retail market, considered to be the 2nd largest packaged food market in Europe, and the 5th largest in the world, according to Euromonitor. In 2020, retail sales in this sector have reached US$90.9 billion and according to Euromonitor, retail sales in the packaged food market should reach US$96.5 billion by the year 2025 (Food Export).

In many sectors, independent wholesale and retail outlets are disappearing rapidly and being replaced by retail distribution chains and networks. Small and medium-sized family-owned firms, are rapidly losing ground to hypermarkets. At the same time, direct marketing, Internet sales, and specialised chain stores have shown strong growth. "Drive systems" (quick pickup of products purchased online)  are being developed by all  retailers, as the internet sales shows fast growth.
Although the hard discount model had strong growth in the years 2011-2015, the French retail market moved on to a premium and best quality products from 2015-2016. This was illustrated by the ongoing cannibalisation of private labels by A-brands (Euromonitor).

The most dynamic retailers are undoubtedly the chains of organic shops and superstores, namely biocoop, Naturalia, La Vie Claire and Bio C'Bon, which profited from rising demand for organic products generally in France.
Merger and acquisition activity impacted the competitive landscape: in response to the ongoing price wars. The main trend of the sector has been towards joint purchasing agreements, mainly the creation of mega central purchasing blocs, specifically the alliances between Auchan France and Système U Centrale Nationale on the one hand and ITM Entreprises and Casino Guichard-Perrachon on the other. In 2018, Casino and ITM Entreprises terminated their purchase agreement and Casino merged part of its purchases with Auchan - Système U.

France's retail distribution network is diverse and sophisticated. Setting up of hypermarkets is regulated by the Royer Law of 1973 and the Raffarin Law of 1996. They aim to protect local shops, which are rapidly losing ground to hypermarkets. The Egalim Law of 2018 introduced a mechanism to give back more margin to the producers that has been extended in 2020.

Market share
According to FCD, in 2019 the retail trade sector in France totalled approximately €200 billion sales revenue, 700,000 jobs, and more than 44,000 points of sales. In 2020, there were 2,257 hypermarkets, 5,716 supermarkets, 3,430 supermarkets with private label ranges of products and 7,140 convenience stores (LSA Focus). Drives represented 7.8% of retail food sales (USDA).
According to the Kantar WorldPanel, the market was divided as following as of Q1 2022: E.Leclerc (22.5% market share), Carrefour (20.2%), Groupement Les Mousquetaires (15.7%), Groupement U (11.3%), Auchan (9.4%), Casino (7.4%), Lidl (7.1%), Aldi (2.8%) and L.Delhaize (2.7%).

The trend is clearly oriented to smaller outlets, location in the city centre, shorter range of products and easy access. The bigger stores (hypermarkets and supermarkets) are mostly located in the suburbs and outside of the cities, offering larger ranges of products and lower prices.

Retail Sector Organisations
The Federation of Trade and Distribution Companies (FCD)
The Associated Trade Stores
The French Trade Council


Internet access
With a population of around 65 million France is the second biggest country in the EU. According to a report from Arcep, internet penetration rate reached 88%, 82% of the population has a computer at home and 85% enjoys fixed internet access. About 92% have their own mobile phone, two-thirds of which are smartphones. According to the same report, 74% of the French population connects to the internet daily. The French now spend an average of 18 hours per week on the internet, almost the same time they dedicate to watching TV (20 hours). The most popular web search engines in France are (91%), Bing (5.2%) and Yahoo (2%).
E-commerce market
The French are among the leading consumers in Europe in terms of online purchases: in 2017 the B2C market reached EUR 82 billion, a 14% increase compared to the previous year, and is expected to rise even further in coming years (E-commerce Foundation). E-commerce through internet mobile devices has also shown significant growth in the past few years. At the end of 2017, the French e-commerce federation Fevad estimated that there were about 173,000 active retail websites in France (+10% when compared to 2016). The most visited online store is Amazon, with more than 15 million unique visitors per month. Other big online players are Cdiscount, eBay, Fnac and Priceminister. In the fashion industry La Redoute and 3 Suisses are among the biggest players. Recently, Google signed a deal with Carrefour to sell groceries online in France, so that customers will be able to buy Carrefour’s products through Google’s platforms such as Google Home, Google Assistant and Google Shopping. Smartphones have become popular for online shopping. According to a 2017 survey by iCM Direct, nearly one third of the business volume is now carried out on mobile devices, a 6% increase compared to the previous year. Finally, it has been reported that the French Senate is planning to introduce a tax on e-commerce. The tax would be imposed on deliveries from e-commerce companies to e-shoppers and the declared objective is to protect the shops in the city centres and smaller businesses across the country.
Social media
According to data from Statista, as of January 2018, 58% of the population had an active social network account. A survey conducted by Cint and published by Statista shows that the age group with the highest penetration rate of social media services in France is 18-24 year olds: 94% of respondents in this age group reported using social media services. The rate was 82% among those aged 25-39 years. The average time spent per French visitor on social networks is 247 minutes a month. The most popular social network is YouTube with a 69% penetration rate, closely followed by Facebook. Twitter has a penetration rate of 24%. As reported by eMarketer, almost 27 million accessed Facebook regularly in 2017, while Instagram accounted for 10.3 million users. The professional social networking platform Linked-in has 15 million users in France (data: Thinknum). When it comes to messaging apps, Messenger is the most popular one, followed by WhatsApp.

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Distance selling

Evolution of the Sector
The European Direct Selling Association (SELDIA) shows the French direct selling market grew 3.1% in 2017, reaching EUR 4.429 billion and involving 795,963 independent representatives (80% of whom are women).  According to Euromonitor International, a stronger French economy and lower unemployment rate may negatively affect direct selling in the short term. Euromonitor International also highlights the increased popularity of party plans, which allow consumers to test new products with friends - and the increase in direct sales ranging from home security products and services to housewares, home furnishing, and small consumer appliances. The World Federation of Direct Selling Association (WFDSA) divides French direct sales as follows: home improvement (35%); household goods and durables (26%); clothing and accessories (10%); wellness (9%); and cosmetics & personal care (9%), among other sectors. 

Main direct selling companies in France include Vorwerk - the only company in the industry with a double digit market share and the owner of popular products such as the Thermomix 31 and Thermomix 5 - as well as traditional retail companies that have struggled since 2015 and entered the direct selling market as an alternative distribution channel (Bonduelle Groupe, Phildar, and La Redoute). Ariix has also recently opened operations in France. The Direct Selling Association also created a direct licensing program and participated in a reality television show in which contestants had to sell a product via direct selling; both strategies have improved the perception of the industry in the region. A direct selling university degree was also launched by the Fédération de la Vente Directe (FVD) and the University Paris-Est Créteil Val de Marne (UPEC) in 2015.

Direct Selling Europe also promotes best practices in the industry.


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Latest Update: July 2024