Marks & Spencer shortages in Paris ‘just the beginning’ of Brexit, says French trade minister

The empty shelves of British store Marks and Spencer's Paris branches are "just the beginning" of Brexit, said French trade minister Franck Riester, although he added that France was committed to trade with the UK.

Marks & Spencer shortages in Paris 'just the beginning' of Brexit, says French trade minister
Empty shelves in a Paris Marks and Spencer store. Photo: AFP

The 17 Marks & Spencer Food Hall stores in Paris have been running low of groceries since early January, with customers posting photographs for empty shelves for four weeks now.

When the shortages started, Marks & Spencer said it was working to solve the problem and hoped to have all their lines back on the shelves shortly. But four weeks in, the situation remained unchanged.


The much-loved UK store has several dozen Food Halls spread across the French capital and its suburbs, beloved of British residents of the city for supplying homely delicacies like Breakfast tea, crumpets, sandwiches and ready meals.

Disappointed shoppers paying visit to the shops in January have wondered whether Brexit will be the end of the French Marks & Spencer branches. M&S stores in Ireland have also reported problems.



But Riester, the Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, said he was “not so pessimistic” about the grocery retailer's future in France.

Speaking at a press conference organised by the Anglo American Press Association (AAPA) on Tuesday Morning, Riester told The Local that the problems Marks & Spencer was experiencing highlighted the difficulties companies were facing when adapting to the post-Brexit world.

“Obviously this is just the beginning (of Brexit). We are working on improving the process for foodstuff to be imported more easily,” Riester said, adding: “Foodstuff is quite difficult to deal with because it’s fresh.”

The European Union has strict external health checks in place on food imports to which the UK is now subject, rules that have radically changed the process of sending food across the border.

READ ALSO: Will I still be able to bring food from Britain to France after Brexit?



But Riester said the French government was determined to facilitate for companies to continue trade between France and the UK.

“I will add that the Covid crisis doesn’t simplify the life of companies. Brexit plus Covid crisis is a difficult situation,” he said, but “we want trade to be as simple as possible. We want the UK to export to us and we want to export to the UK.”

Speaking about Brexit more generally, he added: “Brexit is not a windfall, but for companies that want to enter the single European market with no red tape, it’s useful to be settled in the EU.

“We tell investors: Come to France. France is in the EU. There’s good investment opportunity here, good education, good opportunities here.
“(Brexit) was not France’s choice,” he said.
The Local has contacted Marks & Spencer for comment.





Member comments

  1. Crumpets,celery hearts,Butter chicken and Wiltshire ham are what’s mostly missed here! But then I’m one of the many who was ineligible to vote in the referendum on Brexit, like thousands of others. “teething troubles” are going to be permanent in many walks of life. Ijust hope that M&S can survive the blows to their business here in France.

  2. I would say from the last comments he couldn’t care less and will not be trying to facilitate anything. M&S could consider setting up something with its suppliers actually in France say on the outskirts of Paris, to produce the sandwiches and most durables there. With that number of stores hopefully it will be viable.

  3. OMG can they get some adults in the room? M&S know they meet EU standards but all 3rd countries have strict importing regulations for food stuffs into the EU, which I would hope M&S were aware of before Brexit, but perhaps they thought they would be exempt? They have had 5 years to prepare for this. Whoever was in charge of M&S logistics into the EU post Brexit should be sacked. Even with all the uncertainty of the details, anyone with any semblance of sense would have known that this would be the scenario. Why would anyone at M&S have thought the rules for the US, China, Australia, New-Zealand, Canada and the rest of the world would not apply to them? Get a grip, get documented and get those sandwiches back on the shelves!!

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Who is the Czech billionaire who has saved left-leaning French newspaper Libération?

He owns the 18th-century Chateau du Marais, has stakes in supermarket Casino and Fnac stores, part owns Le Monde and has now rescued France's left-leaning daily newspaper Liberation.

Who is the Czech billionaire who has saved left-leaning French newspaper Libération?

The Czech billionaire businessman Daniel Kretinsky agreed to finance the loss-making French left-leaning daily Libération until it breaks even, according to the paper’s owners on Tuesday.

The billionaire agreed to lend €14 million to Libération to guarantee “the financing of the title until its return to equilibrium” in 2026.

So who is Kretinsky and what else does he own in France?

Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky gives a speech during the 13th “Rencontres de l’Udecam” in Paris on September 5, 2019.  (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

Other French media: Prior to Libération, Kretinsky had already heavily invested in French media as owner of Elle magazine and part-owner of the daily Le Monde. Kretinsky’s foundation will also inject €1 million into the Fund for the Support of Independent Media (FDPI), the majority-owners of Liberation, according to an internal announcement made by Liberation’s Managing Director Denis Olivennes.

Tuesday’s statement quoted Kretinsky as saying he was “happy to participate in this way to the continued existence of an independent newspaper that is essential to democratic debate”.

Retail chains – Kretinsky’s high-profile investments in France include minority stakes in the convenience store and online retailer Casino, as well as in the electronics, books and media group Fnac Darty.

An 18th century castle – His last big acquisition in France was the historic 18th-century Chateau du Marais castle outside Paris, adding a luxury hotel project to his existing French media and retailing empire.

Kretinsky is 47 years old, and has a net worth of approximately €5 billion, according to Forbes magazine.