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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French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport

With France in the middle of a new wave of Covid-19, the country's health minister has urged the public to once again wear face masks on public transport and in crowded spaces.

French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport

With cases on the rise again, French Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon said she is “[asking] the French to put masks back on in transport” in an interview with RTL on Monday, 

For the time being, however, she stressed it was just advice, rather than an obligation, and masks have in fact been recommended on public transport since the legal requirement to wear them was lifted in May. 

However with France reporting over 50,000 daily cases of Covid-19 the government is clearly concerned by the current wave of the pandemic.

Bourguignon said that “we must protect ourselves and protect others,” adding that wearing a mask is “a civic gesture.”

She urged people to don their masks as soon as they see a crowded train or station.

READ MORE: Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

In addition to public transport, Bourguignon is also asking the French to once again mask-up in “all crowded, enclosed areas.”

Currently, masks are only required in hospitals, health centres and places that have vulnerable residents such as nursing homes. They are recommended in crowded spaces where it is impossible to practice social distancing.