How to support your local shops in France during lockdown

How to support your local shops in France during lockdown
Small businesses in France hope to fuel their revenues through online shopping during this lockdown. Photo: AFP
As small businesses in France despair over having to close their doors once again, the government has urged them to make use of a loophole in the new rules.

“Click and collect” is a concept very similar to getting takeout from a restaurant – call the place, put in your order, pick it up when ready – just for shops.

It is a system set up to make it possible for shops to keep their business going throughout the nationwide lockdown that entered into effect on October 30th.

On that date all “non-essential” shops in France had to, once again, temporarily close down for a period currently set to last until December 1st, but which could be extended beyond that depending on the health situation.

The government has issued a list of stores that would be exempt from the rules – food shops, boulangeries, cheese mongers and a few others – and will provide economic grants for those forced to shut down. Still, most small business owners worry that another economic downturn such as the one they suffered this spring could mean closing down for good.

The “click and collect” system was introduced to prevent that from happening by allowing customers to purchase goods through internet or by phone and pick up the package in the shop.

The French government has also now banned supermarkets from selling 'non essential' items in an attempt to protect small businesses.

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Who can sign up?

Everyone. Bookshops and flower shops have jumped on the trend, and others are following suit.

The government has urged all shops to set up “click and collect” services to prevent their incomes from disappearing during the lockdown, but also to offer alternatives to online store giants such as Amazon, which made big profits during the first lockdown this spring and could benefit from the current lockdown's proximity to Christmas.

Online platforms such as Sessile can find a flower shop nearby, while Epicery lists a whole set of local businesses – cheese shops, butchers, fruit and vegetables shops – where it is possible to “click and collect”.

In Paris, where the mayor in vain asked the government to include bookshops in their “essential” shopping category, local authorities have urged shoppers to choose other platforms than Amazon.

 

The tweet below shows the bookshops in France that offer “click and collect”.

 

 

What about small businesses that lack resources to make a website?

The French government has said it would give financial support to firms that need to improve their website or even create one and there is a €100 million package set aside to do so.

That said, “click and collect” does not strictly require a website. A business may use the concept in the manner it prefers, through a website or via distributed forms (similar to takeout menus). However, a website would make it easier to promote the business' delivery services and likely help the business boost sales.

 

The government advises businesses to set up signs in their store windows informing passersby of their services, but also use social media to promote their “click and collect” services, send out text messages or inform in any other way possible to them. 

Business owners who want to sign up for “click and collect” may contact the French Chamber of Commerce to find local advisors, or check if there are some listed on the government's website.

La Poste is also helping local authorities collate directories of online services in their local area.

What rules must shops follow if they put in place “click and collect”?

The government advises all shops that make use of the scheme to:

  • Put out hand sanitising gel for customers to use when picking up their package
  • Adapt pick-up times to work hours to avoid queueing
  • Organise the space and prepare packages so that those coming to pick up their goods do not have to wait to get their package

Won't Amazon just outcompete small businesses anyway?

Many local business remain worried that the “click and collect” solution won’t help them fight e-commerce giants such as Amazon or e-Bay who can easily lower their prices.

Prime Minister Jean Castex, as he announced that supermarkets would have to stop their sale of “non-essential” items, dodged the question about Amazon on Sunday during an interview with France 2, and pushed the responsibility over on consumers by asking them to opt for local alternatives when doing their online shopping in the coming weeks.

READ ALSO French supermarkets ordered to close 'non-essential' aisles

An added incentive for shops is that their incomes from online sales will not be counted when calculating their financial aid in the period of the lockdown.

“Click and collect will not be counted into the solidarity fund calculations,” Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told French media.

EXPLAINED: The economic help schemes that businesses and the self-employed in France can now benefit from

What is “click and collect” called in French?

“Click and collect.” The French government themselves refers to “le click and collect”, although specify further down on their website that it is sometimes called cliqué-retiré (clicked-withdrawn) in French.

Some have asked language guardian Academie Française – known for frowning upon the habit of using English instead of French terms –  whether they approve of the term. We are awaiting their response.

 

 
 

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