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Market Access Procedures | Distributing a Product

Market Access Procedures


Customs Procedures

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.

Specific Import Procedures
There are various suspensive systems, both Customs and Fiscal, for storing, using or transforming your goods, consult the pages of the French Customs website devoted to these questions for further information . It is also possible to resort to bonded transit covered by an external transit certificate (T1).
To learn what has changed in customs procedures in 2007, consult the pages of the customs website devoted to this subject .

In the framework of intra-European trade, some goods are still prohibited or subject to particular formalities (medicines for human use, waste, plants or live animals). For further information, see the brochure on intracommunity trade published by the Customs service .

Importing Samples
For the import, export and re-export of commercial samples the ATA (Temporary Admission) book can be used. It must be written on the product that it is a free sample and that it may not be sold.

To go further, check out our service Import controls and Export controls .


Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports

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).
Products Having a Higher Customs Tariff
Customs duties are higher on textile and food industry products (average duty 17.3%).
Preferential Rates
Granted to imports from countries with which the European Union has signed trade agreements. To know the tariff applied to your product, consult the TARIC Database of the European Union.
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.
Method of Calculation of Duties
Ad Valorem on the CIF value of the imports
Method of Payment of Customs Duties
Duties are payable in cash ( in euros, by cheque, by cash money order, by bank transfer); an extension of the time limit for payment may be granted through systems of collection credit or duty credit.
Import Taxes (Excluding Consumer Taxes)

List of tariffs and local taxes that apply to your product on our service Customs duties and local taxes .


Labeling and Packaging Rules

It must conform to European legislation on the prevention of health risks to consumers and the protection of the environment, especially with regards to waste treatment. Packaging in wood or vegetable matter must be subjected to a phytosanitary inspection.
For further information, consult:
- the summary of European legislation concerning this;
- the official quality marks for products sold on the French market as defined by the Directorate-General of Competition and Fraud;
- the rules of labeling for foodstuffs and products as defined by the Directorate-General of Competition and Fraud.
Languages Permitted on Packaging and Labeling
All products retailed on the French market must be accompanied by an information leaflet in French.
Unit of Measurement
The use of the metric system is compulsory; the Anglo-Saxon units are not well-known.
Mark of Origin "Made In"
It is compulsory and controlled by Customs.
See the rules concerning mark of origin as defined by the Directorate-General of Competition and Fraud.
Labeling Requirements
Age of consumption for alcohol, colorings, standards, etc. In addition to EU's mandatory and voluntary schemes, national voluntary labeling schemes, often appreciated by consumers, might apply.
Specific Regulations
European legislation provides for specific labeling rules for certain products such as foodstuffs, household equipment, sportswear, textiles, cigarettes, etc.
Labeling of seeds from genetically modified varieties or products containing GMOs (Genetically modified organism) is compulsory; the agents of the plant protection services are authorized to make random checks on the conformity of batches of seeds and imported plants, the agents from the Competition and Fraud squad do the same for products suitable for human consumption.

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Distributing a Product


Distribution Network

Types of Outlet

Hypermarkets, supermarkets and mini-markets
Located on the outskirts of towns. They sell foodstuffs and non food products. Mini-markets are smaller and located in town.
Carrefou r

Specialized Hypermarkets
Hypermarkets specialize in one family of products.
DIY: Leroy Merlin
Culture: Fnac
Sport: Decathlon
Electrical appliances: Darty
Toys: Toys’r’us
Department stores
Located in the town center on several floors. They have various specialized departments.
Les Galeries Lafayette
La Samaritaine
Le Bon Marché
Hard discount
Mainly for food. They sell products of the distributor's own brand or none brand at all. People prefer them for their discount prices.
Leader Price
Small shops
Specialized local shops: grocers, butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers, cheese shops, delicatessens, bakeries, cake shops, florists. People prefer them for the quality of their products, human contact and advice.
Cash and Carry
Hypermarkets reserved for professionals.
Gas station marts
Small self-service food store frequently used for stop-gap purchases.
Central buying offices


Evolution of the Retail Sector

Growth and Regulation
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.
Market Shares
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).
Organizations in the Retail Sector
The Federation of Trade and Distribution Companies (FCD)
The associated trade stores

Commercial Intermediaries

Trading Companies
  • Type of Organization
Being listed with trading groups is an obligatory step for breaking into the hypermarket sales market. The cost of getting onto the listing can be substantial and promotional operations are at the supplier's expense. The distributors do not negotiate with foreign suppliers. That is why it is necessary to go through a French intermediary (a non-manufacturing importer, a manufacturer of similar products, a service company).
  • Main Actors
Five trading groups make 90% of purchases from suppliers: Carrefour-Promodès (29% share of the French food market); Lucie, the trading group common to Leclerc and to Système U (22%) ; Opéra, the trading group bringing together Casino-Cora (but also Franprix, Leader Price, Monoprix-Prisunic) (19%) ; Auchan (14%) ; Intermarché (13%).
  • Type of Organization
In addition to their role as a commercial intermediary, wholesalers also offer services such as making up, storage, repackaging, delivery, etc. Wholesalers are generally specialized in a certain type of convenience goods (food or not) or in equipment for industry and the craft industry.
  • Main Actors
Rungis wholesale market; Pomona ; DCDistribution
Useful Resources
The French Confederation of trade between companies
The French network of wholesale markets
The portal for international trade professionals

Using a Commercial Agent

The Advantages
More realistic for a small or medium enterprise in regards to marketing strategy. Most often, they are exclusive agents for the whole country.
Where to Be Vigilant
The agent should be chosen for his motivation, his interest in the product, his references and the range of products he is in charge of. Supplementary commercial investments will be necessary to support the agent's work (catalogs, samples of products, etc.)
Elements of Motivation
The total amount of commission is an important element for motivation. Having recourse to a system of contests and competition between agents is sometimes practiced. Supervision and close contact may be necessary for a good follow-up of the agent's activity.
The Average Amount of Commission
An agent on commission is paid according to the turnover he achieves.
Breach of Contract
The termination of an agency contract is carried out with one month's notice during the first year, two month's notice the second year, and three month's notice the third and following years. The agent is entitled to compensation if he is not the cause of the breach of contract. Council Directive 86/653/EEC establishes the rights and obligations of the principal and its agent.
Finding a Commercial Agent
The national federation of commercial agents
Sales France , network of independent sales persons
Laniac , national and international directory of commercial agents
Find an independant commercial agent
Learn more about Traders, Agents in France on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

Setting Up a Commercial Unit

The Advantages
Setting up in France is very expensive, but the French government encourages the formations of new enterprises, and offers extensive counseling and assistance.
Where to Be Vigilant
It should be considered especially with a long term view.
Different Possible Forms of Settlement
  • A Representative Office
A representative office may be necessary to obtain data about the market and to provide promotional support. However, as a representative office cannot be involved in commercial transactions or generate income, it cannot manage orders directly.
  • A Branch Office
A branch office can take and fill orders and carry out a marketing or advertising program, recruit the sales force and carry out promotional activities. Setting up a branch office is considered as a direct investment and must be declared to the Ministry of Finance. Nevertheless, the branch office is not liable to French taxes.
  • A Company
Setting up a subsidiary needs time and leads to considerable expenses. However, it offers a better guarantee of protection for the registered trade mark, of obtaining credit and of breaking into the market.


Evolution of the Sector
The French franchise sector is the leader in Europe in terms of sales (47.6 billion EUR in January 2009) and has enjoyed 10% average growth over the last four years. 10% of the franchises present in France are foreign. Franchises are established in the sectors of real estate, cars, clothing, perfumes, foodstuffs, glasses and restaurants.
Some Big Franchises
La Forêt , real estate
Feu Vert , cars
Kiabi , clothing
Marionnaud , perfumes
Pizza Hut , restaurants
Les Mousquetaires , foodstuffs
Ranking of franchises
For Further Information
The French Franchise Federation
The Franchise Observatory

Finding Assistance

Export Trading Companies
The portal for international trade professionals

Distance Selling

Most Popular Forms of Direct Marketing
Mail order, e-commerce, e-mail, telephone, teleshopping, SMS text.
Type of Products
All types of products including food or cars.
Evolution of the Sector
The most widely used methods of selling are the post, internet and the telephone.
Sales over the internet continue to grow at a sustained rate. They show an increase of 40% every year. For further information about e-commerce, click here .
Information presented in a catalog is very often a condition of a purchase whether this is carried out over the internet or in a store.
Direct Marketing Enterprises
FEVAD , French Federation of e-commerce and Distance Selling
UFMD , The French Union of Direct Marketing

Big Names in Distance Selling

La Redoute Mail order, e-commerce Clothing, household linen, furniture, telephone, video games, tv-hifi, electrical appliances, etc.
3 Suisses Mail order, e-commerce Clothing, household linen, furniture, telephone, video games, tv-hifi, electrical appliances, books, DVDs, etc.
Quelle Mail order, e-commerce Clothing, household linen, beauty products, jewelry and accessories, home decor, furniture.
Fnac E-commerce Books, CDs, DVDs, computer equipment, picture and sound, photos, concerts, plays, etc.
Téléshopping Teleshopping, e-commerce Car accessories, food, jewelry, decoration, electrical appliances, garden, furniture, stationery, etc.

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Learn more about Selling to France on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

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Last Updates: July 2012

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