British couple Rachel Lowe and Simon Parker are in the process of transferring their business, an online vinyl and music merchandise shop, from the UK to France, and Ms Lowe says that she is delighted with the support in France for small businesses.
She told The Connexion that the whole experience of moving to the outskirts of Montpellier has been positive, saying, “we’ve just found a lovely attitude from everyone we’ve been dealing with”.
“We moved over to France in September 2019, shortly before the pandemic,” she said.
“The whole thing was unexpected and unplanned.
“We used to have a physical record shop in Brighton, but with the impact of Brexit and the retail crisis in the UK, we decided to close the shop and just sell online.
“That meant for the first time there were no real geographical boundaries in terms of where we could live and work.
“So we decided to go to France for a few months. At least, that was the plan.
“But the longer we were here, the more we thought, why would we go back? And we couldn’t think of a good reason.
“The move here makes sense for business reasons too.
“We sell to people in 43 different countries, many of which are in the EU, and all of a sudden Brexit has put up a lot of barriers for trade outside the UK.
“We’d much rather stay in France and be part of the EU, where many of our customers are, and most of the products we buy are from EU countries too.
“For example, all our clothing comes from a company based in Belgium and our beach towels are from Austria.
“Our vinyl records, a big part of what we do, are all distributed throughout EU countries.
“We are very popular with the French. A lot of our art prints are hanging on walls in French homes. We have lots of customers from the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia too.
“At the moment, about 30% of our customer base is in the EU, but it is growing.
“Before our website was only in English we were focused on the British market.
“Now we have translated it into French and we’ll translate it to other languages.
“We have also started doing events in France and we’re hoping to do more in other countries in the EU. So, we’re building up our European customer base.
“In terms of transferring our business over to France, we’re still in the early stages.
“We couldn’t do anything until we got our cartes de séjour, which we did about a month ago.
“Then we could start working towards getting our company registered in France, with help from the Montpellier Chamber of Commerce, who have been fantastic.
“We just walked in there one day and asked for help.
“We now have a personal advisor with whom we have had three online calls. It has all been free.
“She has been taking us through the first steps of the process and helping us create a business plan.
“She is also introducing us to people to help us form the company - accountants, advisory groups, business communities, and potential funding.
“There is so much help out there. In the UK, the attitude from the government is, ‘how much money can we take’.
“In France, the government seems to have the attitude of ‘what can we do to support businesses’, which is so refreshing.
“We have been told we have different options for getting our business registered in France, but one option is to pay €70 to the Montpellier Chamber of Commerce, who will then provide us with a representative to take us the rest of the way through the process.
“It has all been plain sailing so far.
“We found that with French bureaucracy, there are certain things that take longer. For instance, we’re registering our car in France at the moment and there are a lot of steps.
“Things like that are a bit more convoluted and can take longer.
“But I would say it is balanced by the fact that one, there is such a good support structure around to help you go through the different process and two, we’ve just found a positive attitude from everyone we’ve been dealing with.
“People seem to have time to help and we’ve never been made to feel unwelcome as a British person or as a foreigner.
“We couldn’t have asked for any more.
“We haven’t finished setting up the business, but I’m feeling confident it will all be sorted soon.”
Ms Lowe and her partner Mr Parker run Vinyl Revolution. They are interested in acquiring old vinyls that people in France may have and want to get rid of. You can contact them at email@example.com