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The distribution network in France

Evolution of the Sector
According to USDA’s Report Retail Foods 2021, in 2020, the largest French retailers continued investing in smaller stores in city centers. The overall retail food sales in France were estimated to $394 billion, and specialized food stores at (frozen food stores, organics and open-air markets) $35 billion. France is a competitive retail market, considered to be the 2nd largest packaged food market in Europe, and the 5th largest in the world, according to Euromonitor. In 2020, retail sales in this sector have reached US$90.9 billion and according to Euromonitor, retail sales in the packaged food market should reach US$96.5 billion by the year 2025 (Food Export).

In many sectors, independent wholesale and retail outlets are disappearing rapidly and being replaced by retail distribution chains and networks. Small and medium-sized family-owned firms, are rapidly losing ground to hypermarkets. At the same time, direct marketing, Internet sales, and specialised chain stores have shown strong growth. "Drive systems" (quick pickup of products purchased online)  are being developed by all  retailers, as the internet sales shows fast growth.
Although the hard discount model had strong growth in the years 2011-2015, the French retail market moved on to a premium and best quality products from 2015-2016. This was illustrated by the ongoing cannibalisation of private labels by A-brands (Euromonitor).

The most dynamic retailers are undoubtedly the chains of organic shops and superstores, namely biocoop, Naturalia, La Vie Claire and Bio C'Bon, which profited from rising demand for organic products generally in France.
Merger and acquisition activity impacted the competitive landscape: in response to the ongoing price wars. The main trend of the sector has been towards joint purchasing agreements, mainly the creation of mega central purchasing blocs, specifically the alliances between Auchan France and Système U Centrale Nationale on the one hand and ITM Entreprises and Casino Guichard-Perrachon on the other. In 2018, Casino and ITM Entreprises terminated their purchase agreement and Casino merged part of its purchases with Auchan - Système U.

France's retail distribution network is diverse and sophisticated. Setting up of hypermarkets is regulated by the Royer Law of 1973 and the Raffarin Law of 1996. They aim to protect local shops, which are rapidly losing ground to hypermarkets. The Egalim Law of 2018 introduced a mechanism to give back more margin to the producers that has been extended in 2020.

Market share
According to FCD, in 2019 the retail trade sector in France totalled approximately €200 billion sales revenue, 700,000 jobs, and more than 44,000 points of sales. In 2020, there were 2,257 hypermarkets, 5,716 supermarkets, 3,430 supermarkets with private label ranges of products and 7,140 convenience stores (LSA Focus). Drives represented 7.8% of retail food sales (USDA).
According to the Kantar WorldPanel, the market was divided as following as of Q1 2022: E.Leclerc (22.5% market share), Carrefour (20.2%), Groupement Les Mousquetaires (15.7%), Groupement U (11.3%), Auchan (9.4%), Casino (7.4%), Lidl (7.1%), Aldi (2.8%) and L.Delhaize (2.7%).

The trend is clearly oriented to smaller outlets, location in the city centre, shorter range of products and easy access. The bigger stores (hypermarkets and supermarkets) are mostly located in the suburbs and outside of the cities, offering larger ranges of products and lower prices.

Retail Sector Organisations
The Federation of Trade and Distribution Companies (FCD)
The Associated Trade Stores
The French Trade Council

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Latest Update: July 2024