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France - Selling and buying

Contents extracted from the comprehensive atlas of international trade by Export Entreprises

Reaching the consumers

Marketing opportunities

Consumer behavior: Traditionally, price has been an essential element in the French consumer's buying process. However, quality is becoming more and more important for the French consumer who is now tending to favor products which have a quality label or mark. The quality of after-sales service is a decisive element in choosing where to buy.
Consumer profile: France is a country where buying most often equals pleasure. France is famous for its high consumption of leisure and culture products and gifts. The French consumer is impulsive and makes frequent purchases. As regards foodstuffs, the French are more likely to buy domestic products.
Main advertising agencies:

Distribution network

Evolution of the sector: The wholesale trade represents 172,000 companies and a 53.6 billion EUR turnover. The retail trade represents 350,000 companies and a 360 billion EUR turnover. The setting up of hypermarkets is regulated by the Royer Law of 1973 and the Raffarin Law of 1996 ; they aim to protect local shops, rapidly losing grounds to hypermarkets. France's retail distribution network is diverse and sophisticated.
Types of outlet: Mass marketing dominates the retail trade sector in France with, in 2009, 5,437 supermarkets and 4,531 hard discount stores. The Carrefour group is in the leading position with a turnover of 77.9 billion Euros. Then comes Auchan with 35.3 billion, Intermarché with 31.5 billion, Leclerc and Casino (2006 ranking).

Market access procedures

Economic Cooperation: Member of the European Union
Member of the European Economic Area which has guaranteed, since 1 January 1993, the free movement of most goods between European countries.
Multilateral agreements and bilateral agreements with many countries.
Non tariff barriers: At the European level, agricultural products are protected within the Common Agricultural Policy and textile products from China, Belarus, North Korea, Montenegro, Kosovo and Uzbekistan are subject to particular formalities and import licenses or control procedures (export document, monitoring document).
At the national level, trade in plants and seeds, aircraft, and others has to be declared; they have to be certified respectively by the GNIS(the national interprofessional organization for seeds and plants), the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Average Customs Duty (excluding agricultural products): Operations carried out within the EEA are free of duty.
The Common Customs Tariff of the European Union applies to goods originating outside Europe. Generally the duty is relatively low, especially for industrial products (4.2% on average).
Customs classification: The Combined Nomenclature of the European Community (EC) integrates the HS nomenclature and supplements it with its own subheadings with an eight digit code number and its own Legal Notes created for Community purposes.
Import procedures: For goods of a value under 1,000 kg or 1,000 EUR, a verbal declaration at customs, and presenting the invoice, is sufficient.
For higher values, you must declare it at the Customs Office:
1) a brief declaration (air or maritime manifest) to conclude the collection of the goods.
2) a common law declaration (SAD, single administrative document), as well as the accompanying documents to allow their clearance.
The SAD form can be obtained from Chambers of Commerce or an approved printer.

An online clearance platform by automated transmission (DELTA) is accessible from the portal PRODOUANE (in French).

In the case of deliveries and purchases within the European Community, the declaration of exchange of goods (DEB) or Intrastat declaration must be sent to the Customs Service.

As part of the "SAFE" standards advocated by the World Customs Organization (WCO), the European Union has set up a new system of import controls, the "Import Control System" (ICS), which aims to secure the flow of goods at the time of their entry into the customs territory of the EU. This control system, part of the Community Program eCustomer, has been in effect since January 1, 2011. Since then, operators are required to pass an Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) to the customs of the country of entry, prior to the introduction of goods into the customs territory of the European Union.

The Modernized Customs Code entered into force in 2008 simplifies procedures, for example computerizing and centralizing transactions.

Customs website: French Customs website

Organizing goods transport

Organizing goods transport to and from: Goods transport (national and international) in France is dominated by road transport, with more than 2 billion goods transported every year. Road transport of goods is above all practical. Plans for putting trucks on trains and reviving the use of waterways could advance the development of a form of transport other than road, but their potential remains limited.


International goods transport for its part is dominated by sea transport. This means of transport is economical and France is easy to access because of its extensive sea coast. Five of the fifteen biggest European ports are located in France; they are linked with each other and serve the other large European centers of consumption in the North and in the South thanks to an extensive networking of shipping lines. The ports represent 85% in volume and 66% in value of French foreign trade.

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