The French town where local businesses are creating an alternative to Amazon

During lockdown, hundreds of small business owners in a small town in western France gathered on a 100 percent local e-commerce platform with a double objective: staying afloat and fighting giants such as Amazon.

The French town where local businesses are creating an alternative to Amazon
Angers, in western France, is the first city in the country to have its own online marketplace. Photo: AFP

Retail shops were hit hard by coronavirus – many were forced to close during the lockdown and even after they reopened many consumers turned to online shopping.

So more than 200 local businesses in the town of Angers decided to launch their own e-commerce platform to try and keep their stores afloat.

The project to create a local online marketplace in Angers had been in the pipeline for a couple of years already but everything accelerated when lockdown hit, according to the town’s official website.

Many shops had to close during lockdown in France. Photo: AFP

Angers shopping launched on April 20th and has made Angers the first city in France to have its own online marketplace.

Created by the Paris-based tech startup Wishibam in collaboration with Angers French Tech, the CCI Maine-et-Loire and the association “les Vitrines d’Angers”, it gave the opportunity to hundreds of local Angers business vendors to sell their products while their physical shops were closed.

Angers shopping also has the ambition of being ethical, environmentally friendly and human-focused, in sharp contrast to Amazon which has particularly been criticised in France.

French activists protest against Amazon on the Pont-du-Gard bridge in southern France on June 17, 2020. Photo: AFP. 

In fact at the beginning of lockdown, Amazon had to face several strikes and demonstrations by warehouse workers who complained about overcrowding and a lack of hand sanitiser.

The Versailles Court of Appeals in France then upheld a previous lower court decision banning Amazon from delivering non-essential items in the country during the covid-19 crisis.

Still, challenging Amazon won’t be easy as it amounts for 22 per cent of all online spending in France, with about 45 per cent of the population buying from it at least once a year, according to Kantar Insights France.

And even with the end of lockdown, online shopping remains a good alternative for small business owners who, for the most part, can only allow a few masked customers into their shop at once. 

By Olivia Sorrel-Dejerine


Member comments

  1. Angevin(e)s will be indignant to see their beautiful city (pop 150K plus) described as a ‘small town.’ Only a Parisian …

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Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

An investigation has revealed that tap water supplied to some 12 million people in France was sometimes contaminated with high levels of pesticides last year.

Where in France are there concerns about pesticides in drinking water

Data from regional health agencies, and collated by Le Monde, found that supplies to about 20 percent of the population, up from 5.9 percent the year previously, failed to consistently meet regional quality standards. 

The study highlighted regional differences in tap water quality. Hauts-de-France water was the most likely to be affected, with 65 percent of the population there drinking water contaminated by unacceptable pesticide levels. In Brittany, that level fell to 43 percent; 25.5 percent in the Grand-Est, and 25 percent in the Pays de la Loire.

Occitanie, in southwest France, meanwhile, showed the lowest level of non-compliance with standards, with just 5.1 percent of the region’s population affected by high pesticide levels in their tap water. However, figures show that 71 percent of people in one département in the region, Gers, were supplied with water containing high levels of pesticides.

Regional discrepancies in testing, including what chemicals are tested for, mean that results and standards are not uniform across France. Tap water in Haute-Corse is tested for 24 pesticide molecules; in Hauts-de-Seine, that figure rises to 477. 

One reason for regional testing standards are differences in local agricultural requirements.

Part of the increase in the year-on-year number of households supplied with affected water may also be explained by the fact that tests in many regions now seek to trace more molecules, Le Monde noted.

Water quality standards in France are strict – with a limit for pesticide residues set at 0.1 microgramme per litre, so the “high” levels found in tap water supplies may not represent a danger to health.

The question of the level of health risk to humans, therefore, remains unclear. The Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (Anses) has not defined a maximum safety level for 23 pesticides or their metabolites. Le Monde cites two metabolites of chloridazone, a herbicide used until 2020 on beet fields, for which only provisional safety levels in tap water have been set. 

Many of these molecules and their long-term effects remain unknown – and “the long-term health effects of exposure to low doses of pesticides are difficult to assess,” admits the Ministry of Health.

Michel Laforcade, former director general of the ARS Nouvelle-Aquitaine told Le Monde that health authorities have “failed” on this subject. 

“One day, we will have to give an account,” he said. “It may not be on the same scale as the contaminated blood affair, but it could become the next public health scandal.”

In December 2020, the Direction générale de la santé (DGS) recommended “restricting uses of water” as soon as the 0.1 micrograms per litre quality threshold is exceeded, in cases of residues for which there is no formal maximum health value.

But this principle is not always applied, according to France 2’s Complètement d’enquête programme.

In December 2021, the DGS asked the Haut conseil de la santé publique (HCSP) “for support on the management of health risks associated with the presence of pesticides and pesticide metabolites in water intended for human consumption.”

The HCSP, in response, said that “an active and urgent policy must be implemented to reduce the contamination of resources by pesticides”.