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.
- 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
- Communication and IT equipment
- Stationery and newspapers
- Pharmaceutical or medical products
- Seeds, fertilisers and pet food
- Building materials, hardware, DIY equipment and paint
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.
Nous ne reviendrons pas sur les mesures annoncées par le président de la République et le Gouvernement : il n'y aura pas de réouverture dans l'immédiat des commerces non-essentiels.
Ces mesures, nous les prenons pour protéger les Français. pic.twitter.com/GqU39151zl
— Jean Castex (@JeanCASTEX) November 1, 2020
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.
We've just sent our latest newsletter in which we ask for your support if you have the means and interest.
— Shakespeare&Company (@Shakespeare_Co) October 28, 2020
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.”
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has also pleaded with people to support their local stores rather than Amazon.
Anne Hidalgo: “N'achetez pas sur Amazon, c'est la mort de nos librairies et de notre vie de quartier” pic.twitter.com/o2QQNjqBFA
— BFMTV (@BFMTV) November 2, 2020