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In this page: Market Access Procedures | Distributing a Product

 

Market Access Procedures

 
 

Customs Procedures

Import Procedures
For goods valued at under 1,000 kg or EUR 1,000, a verbal declaration at customs and presentation of the receipt of purchase is sufficient.
Higher-valued must be declared at the Customs Office:
1) a brief declaration (air or maritime manifest) to conclude the collection of the goods.
2) a common law declaration (SAD, single administrative document), as well as the accompanying documents to allow their clearance.
The SAD form can be obtained from Chambers of Commerce or an approved printer.

An online clearance platform by automated transmission (DELTA) is accessible from the The portal of the General Directorate of Customs and Indirect Taxes (in French).

In the case of deliveries and purchases within the European Community, the declaration of exchange of goods (DEB) or Intrastat declaration must be sent to the Customs Service.

As part of the 'SAFE' standards advocated by the World Customs Organisation (WCO), the European Union has set up a new system of import controls, the 'Import Control System' (ICS), which aims to secure the flow of goods at the time of their entry into the customs territory of the EU. This control system, part of the Community Programme eCustoms, has been in effect since 1 January 2011. Since then, operators are required to pass an Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) to the customs of the country of entry, prior to the introduction of goods into the customs territory of the European Union.

The Modernised Customs Code entered into force in 2008 simplifies procedures, for example computerising and centralising transactions.

Since 1 July 2009, all companies established outside of the EU are required to have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number if they wish to submit a customs declaration or an Entry/Exit Summary declaration. For more information, please visit the website of the EU Customs Union. For France-specific customs clearance requirements, please visit the the website of the French Customs (in French).

Specific Import Procedures
There are various suspensive systems, both Customs and Fiscal, for storing, using or transforming your goods, consult the pages of the French Customs website devoted to these questions for further information. It is also possible to resort to bonded transit covered by an external transit certificate (T1). In the framework of intra-European trade, some goods are still prohibited or subject to particular formalities (medicines for human use, waste, plants or live animals). For further information, please visit the website of the French Customs (in French).
Importing Samples
For the import, export and re-export of commercial samples an ATA (Temporary Admission) book can be used. It must be written on the product that it is a free sample and that it may not be sold.
 

To go further, check out our service Import controls and Export controls.

 
 

Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports

Customs threshold (from which tariffs are required)
EUR 150
Average Customs Duty (Excluding Agricultural Products)
Import duty and taxes are due for goods imported to France from outside of the European Union - whether by a private individual or a corporate entity. France is party to the European Union’s Common Customs Tariff, therefore preferential rates apply to imports from countries which the EU has signed agreements with. Duties range from 0-17%, with the general tariff averaging 4.2%. However, foodstuffs, textiles and clothing still experience some protection measures (quotas, higher tariffs, etc.). Some imports are subject to anti-dumping duties.
Products Having a Higher Customs Tariff
The sectors of fabrics and items of clothing (high duties and quotas) and foodstuffs (preferential treatment and many tariff quotas, CAP) still experience protection measures. According to the recently published 2019 EU Trade Policy Review (WTO), the sector with the highest average tariffs is the dairy sector (32.3%), followed by sugar and confectionery (27.0%), meat (19.0%), cereals and preparations (17.2%) and fruit and vegetables (13.0%). Concerning non-agricultural products, fish and fishery products (11.8% on simple average) and clothing (11.6%) are the sectors with the highest tariff protection.

More information can be found in the WTO Tariff profile of the EU.
Preferential Rates
For countries with whom a bilateral or a multilateral agreement have been signed by the European Union.

To get further information consult the website of the European Union.

To get further information on customs policies in the European Union, please check the exhaustive report by the European Commission.

Customs Classification
France uses the harmonised system.
Method of Calculation of Duties
Customs duty is calculated Ad Valorem on the CIF value of the goods, in accordance with the Common Customs Tariff (CCT) for all the countries of the Union. TARIC, the integrated Tariff of the European Union, is a multilingual database integrating all measures relating to EU customs tariff, commercial and agricultural legislation.
Method of Payment of Customs Duties
Duties are payable in cash (in Euros, by check, by cash money order, by bank transfer); an extension of the time limit for payment may be granted through systems of collection credit or duty credit.
Import Taxes (Excluding Consumer Taxes)
None
 

List of tariffs and local taxes that apply to your product on our service Customs duties and local taxes.

 

Labeling and Packaging Rules

Packaging
It must conform to European legislation on the prevention of health risks to consumers and the protection of the environment, especially with regards to waste treatment. Packaging in wood or vegetable matter must be subjected to a phytosanitary inspection.
For further information, consult:
- the summary of European legislation concerning this;
- the official quality marks for products sold on the French market as defined by the Directorate-General of Competition and Fraud;
- the rules of labeling for foodstuffs as defined by the Directorate-General of Competition and Fraud.
Languages Permitted on Packaging and Labeling
All products retailed on the French market must be accompanied by an information leaflet in French. Regarding textile labeling, drawings, symbols or pictograms can be accompanied by statements in foreign language not translated in French as long as they are either equivalent or complementary and are not likely to mislead the consumer.
Unit of Measurement
The use of the metric system is compulsory; the Anglo-Saxon units are not well-known.
Mark of Origin "Made In"
It is compulsory and controlled by Customs.
See the rules concerning mark of origin as defined by the Directorate-General of Competition and Fraud.
Labeling Requirements
Age of consumption for alcohol, colorings, standards, etc. In addition to EU's mandatory and voluntary schemes, national voluntary labeling schemes, often appreciated by consumers, might apply. Regarding food products, labels should include the product definition; its shelf life; precautionary information or usage instructions; statement of contents, including all additives, preservatives and colour agents; the product’s country of origin and name of importer or vendor; and the manufacturer’s lot or batch number.
Specific Regulations
European legislation provides for specific labeling rules for certain products such as foodstuffs, household equipment, sportswear, textiles, cigarettes, etc.
Labeling of seeds from genetically modified varieties or products containing GMOs (Genetically modified organism) is compulsory; the agents of the plant protection services are authorized to make random checks on the conformity of batches of seeds and imported plants, the agents from the Competition and Fraud squad do the same for products suitable for human consumption.

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Distributing a Product

 

Distribution Network

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.
Carrefour
Auchan

E.Leclerc
Intermarché
Casino
Système U
Cora
Aldi
Lidl
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 , Intersport
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
Printemps
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.
Lidl
Aldi
Leader Price
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.
Costco
Gas station marts
Small self-service food store frequently used for stop-gap purchases. Located in the gas station, airport, train station, highway
Relay

Total

Central buying offices

List of central buying agencies
 

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
The French Chamber of Trade and Industry
 

E-commerce

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 Google.fr (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.
E-commerce sales and customers
According to a study by Médiamétrie, 37.4 million French consumers shopped online during the first quarter of 2018. The majority of online shoppers (54%) shop online at least once a month and around 28% do so at least twice a month. The average annual amount for a transaction lowered to EUR 65.5 in 2017 compared to EUR 69 euro the previous year, a 5% drop (Fevad - La Fédération du e-commerce et de la vente à distance). Nevertheless, this decline in average spending is counterbalanced by purchase frequency which has increased sharply over the last 3 years: after a 21% increase in 2016 and 19% in 2015, it went up 19% in 2017. On average, internet shoppers carry out 33 transactions online per year (Fevad). Consumers aged 25-34 order products online most frequently. When purchasing goods online, e-shoppers in France like to pay with credit cards (one of the most popular way to do so is with Carte-Bleue, a debit card that can also be used as a credit card). Other popular online payment methods in France are Visa and PayPal. As regards the latter, there are more than 8 million PayPal accounts in France, which makes it the third European country in terms of the number of PayPal accounts. Among other alternative payment methods there are Allopass, CM-CIC Paiement, Hipay, Moneo, Paysafecard and bank transfers. Fevad’s data show that French consumers prefer to have their online purchases delivered at home or at work, compared to other solutions like in-store delivery or delivery at a pick-up point. While purchasing from national sellers has decreased, the number of e-shoppers that bought from sellers in non-EU countries has increased from 15% in 2016 to 17% in 2017. The main cross-border commercial partners where China and the United States.
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.
 

Direct 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.

 
 

Commercial Intermediaries

Trading Companies
 
  • Type of Organization
Being listed with trading groups is an obligatory step for breaking into the hypermarket sales market. The cost of getting onto the listing can be substantial and promotional operations are at the supplier's expense. The distributors do not negotiate with foreign suppliers. That is why it is necessary to go through a French intermediary (a non-manufacturing importer, a manufacturer of similar products, a service company).
  • Main Actors
Five trading groups make 90% of purchases from suppliers: Carrefour-Promodès (29% share of the French food market); Lucie, the trading group common to Leclerc and to Système U (22%); Opéra, the trading group bringing together Casino-Cora (but also Franprix, Leader Price, Monoprix-Prisunic) (19%); Auchan (14%); Intermarché (13%).
Wholesalers
 
  • Type of Organization
In addition to their role as a commercial intermediary, wholesalers also offer services such as making up, storage, repackaging, delivery, etc. Wholesalers are generally specialized in a certain type of convenience goods (food or not) or in equipment for industry and the craft industry.
  • Main Actors
Rungis wholesale market; Pomona
Useful Resources
The Federation of Commerce and Distribution
 

Using a Commercial Agent

The Advantages
More realistic for a small or medium enterprise in regards to marketing strategy. Most often, they are exclusive agents for the whole country.
Where to Be Vigilant
The agent should be chosen for his motivation, his interest in the product, his references and the range of products he is in charge of. Supplementary commercial investments will be necessary to support the agent's work (catalogs, samples of products, etc.)
Elements of Motivation
The total amount of commission is an important element for motivation. Having recourse to a system of contests and competition between agents is sometimes practiced. Supervision and close contact may be necessary for a good follow-up of the agent's activity.
The Average Amount of Commission
An agent on commission is paid according to the turnover he achieves.
Breach of Contract
The termination of an agency contract is carried out with one month's notice during the first year, two month's notice the second year, and three month's notice the third and following years. The agent is entitled to compensation if he is not the cause of the breach of contract. Council Directive 86/653/EEC establishes the rights and obligations of the principal and its agent, the agent’s remuneration, and the conclusion and termination of an agency contract.
Finding a Commercial Agent
The national federation of commercial agents
Sales France, network of independent sales persons
Laniac (in french), national and international directory of commercial agents
Independent Agents Home at LibertyMutualGroup.com
 

Setting Up a Commercial Unit

The Advantages
Setting up in France is very expensive, but the French government encourages the formations of new enterprises, and offers extensive counseling and assistance.
Where to Be Vigilant
It should be considered especially with a long term view.
Different Possible Forms of Settlement
 
  • A Representative Office
A representative office may be necessary to obtain data about the market and to provide promotional support. However, as a representative office cannot be involved in commercial transactions or generate income, it cannot manage orders directly.
  • A Branch Office
A branch office can take and fill orders and carry out a marketing or advertising program, recruit the sales force and carry out promotional activities. Setting up a branch office is considered as a direct investment and must be declared to the Ministry of Finance. Nevertheless, the branch office is not liable to French taxes.
  • A Company
Setting up a subsidiary needs time and leads to considerable expenses. However, it offers a better guarantee of protection for the registered trade mark, of obtaining credit and of breaking into the market.
 

Franchising

Evolution of the Sector
The French franchise sector is the leader in Europe in terms of sales, with a total turnover of 67.80 billion euros in 2019 (French Franchising Federation), and the third largest in the world. There are about 2049 franchisers (+2.2%) and 78,218 franchises (+4%) in the French market in 2019. There are 757 852 employment generated by the French franchise sector (French federation of franchise, 2019).

Franchises are established in the sectors of real estate, cars, clothing, perfumes, foodstuffs, glasses and restaurants. According to the French federation of franchise, the food sector represented almost 35% of the total sales in 2019, followed by home appliances sector (11,6%). The most important sectors in terms of number of outlets are foodstuff, personal products, car services, beauty centers and hairdressers.

Although the French franchise sector is very competitive, direct investment or area development expansion methods have proven more successful in France.
Some Big Franchises
Ranking of franchises, Complete list of franchises by sector of activity
For Further Information
The French Franchise Federation
The Franchise Observatory
The french entrepreuneurship Agency
 

Finding Assistance

Export Trading Companies
Harth
The portal for international trade professionals
Recommended Resource
France Trade Portal
 
 
 
 

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Latest update: November 2022

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