These are the ‘essential’ items French supermarkets can sell during lockdown

France's prime minister has ordered the country's supermarkets to close their 'non essential' aisles during the lockdown - here's what you are allowed to buy.

These are the 'essential' items French supermarkets can sell during lockdown
Illustration photo: AFP

Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Sunday that supermarkets would be ordered to close sections that sell 'non essential' items during lockdown. Here's a breakdown of what that means.

When does this start?

From Tuesday, November 3rd, certain sections of supermarkets have to close, although there will be a day of 'tolerance' on Wednesday for shops to get organised before enforcement starts, the government added.

What can I buy?

The first thing to note is that the rules are for the sellers, not the buyers – so if the shop is selling it then you are allowed to buy it and no-one is going to query whether the six bottles of wine and family-sized bar of chocolate in your trolley constitute essential items (and hey, we all need a little help to get us through this).

But from Tuesday, certain sections of the supermarkets must be cordoned off.

What is banned?

This doesn't affect food or drink (including alcoholic drinks) household items or DIY products. If you live in a city and shop in one of the smaller mini-markets like Monoprix, Franprix or Carrefour City you're unlikely to see much change, but if you shop in one of the large supermarchés or hypermarchés then certain sections will be closed off.

These broadly cover anything which smaller retailers can no longer sell including clothes, jewellery, children's toys and games, books, music and films.

The decree published in the Journal Officiel on Monday does not list what is banned, but rather lists the types of produce that retailers can still open to sell. Anything not on the list is therefore barred from sale in supermarkets.

These are;

  • All types of food, fresh frozen or tinned
  • All types of beverages, including alcoholic ones
  • Toiletries and hygiene products
  • Cleaning products
  • Childcare products
  • Maintenance, repair and technical items for vehicles, motorbikes or bikes
  • Fuel
  • Communication and IT equipment
  • Stationery and newspapers
  • Pharmaceutical or medical products
  • Seeds, fertilisers and pet food
  • Building materials, hardware, DIY equipment and paint

READ ALSO Your questions answered on the rules of France's second lockdown

Bookshops have been ordered to close during the lockdown. Photo: AFP

Why is the government doing this?

The aim is to provide a level playing field for smaller independent retailers, many of which have been forced to close down for a second time. Clothes shops, florists, toy shops and jewellers have all been deemed 'non essential' and ordered to close during the lockdown, which came into force on Friday.

However supermarkets are counted as essential and can stay open. Small traders have pointed out that it is completely unfair that they must close but people can go to large supermarkets and hypermarkets and buy clothes, flowers, toys and jewellery and it seems that the PM agrees, as these items will no longer be on sale in supermarkets from Tuesday.

There has also been a major row brewing among the country's booksellers who were also ordered to close, while large chains like Fnac, which sell essential office items and books were allowed to stay open. The sale of books in these outlets has now been stopped.

In some towns, local mayors had also granted permission to small businesses to reopen, a situation that Castex said must stop.


What about online sales?

Online sales of all types of items – essential and non-essential – are still allowed from all types of retailers.

In fact the government is encouraging retailers to embrace this as a compromise that keeps businesses afloat but complies with health regulations of people staying at home.

The government says that profits from online sales will not be included in the amount that a business must declare in order to qualify for the solidarity fund, and a €100 million budget has been set aside to support businesses in setting up online services.

Post office La Poste is to support local mairies in setting up directories for each town listing the local shops and their online services.


Currently only around one third of French retailers have an online business, and finance minister Bruno Le Maire says he hopes this can rise to 50 percent, adding: “Amazon must not be the big winner in this crisis, ahead of small retailers and supermarkets.”

READ ALSO How you can support local businesses during France's lockdown

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has also pleaded with people to support their local stores rather than Amazon.


Member comments

  1. If these businesses cannot survive with a Government moving the goalposts, they should not be in business. The odds are that they would have gone down the pan anyway without the help of the virus.

  2. Most businesses can survive and adapt to a shifting of the goalposts if given time to adapt to the change but that is not the case here. Especially if you consider that until very recently the government was adamant that a second national lockdown would not happen and could not be supported. They had no reason to expect or prepare for this.

    Encouraging businesses to shift to online sales is good, as France by and large really does not do online shopping, but again it takes time to build a site, set up online payment systems, photograph and list inventories and set up delivery systems…it cannot be done overnight.

  3. “They had no reason to expect or prepare for this.” They must be completely naive or thick. It’s been obviously on the cards for months one had only to see how the virus has been spreading since July.

  4. Chez Moi, I was attempting to make a joke. 😉 The Local released another article today about how the government is calling on smokers to quit this month.

  5. It’s pretty bold to say that ‘the odds are they would have gone down the pan anyway’. Why would you assume that? Being forced to close for several months isn’t in anyone’s business plan.

  6. @lollipop shoes you’re absolutely right. I think this person Tarquin is just being obnoxious. His comments in other articles are just the same.

    @Sarah you’re right about Amazon. That’s the first thing that came to my mind too.

  7. I’m expressing an opinion but perhaps one is not allowed to do that any more. Why pick on Amazon? I can well remember when it started and was loosing money hand over first but he kept at it because he knew his business model would work. Thank God he did because my investment started to pay off.

    Oh and Lollipop if you have to rely on Government restrictions, like France has, to keep going you shouldn’t be in business in the first place.

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‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief.