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Boom in French supermarkets buying and selling second-hand items

All the big-name supermarkets are rolling out ‘coin occasion’ areas, as customers look to cash-in on used items

Customers can buy second-hand goods which have been tested and cleaned with a one-year guarantee Pic: Philippe Clement / Shutterstock

As buying second-hand, recycling and upcycling becomes more and more popular, main brand supermarkets are joining in the trend to devote some of their space in an increasing number of stores to sell goods that are not brand new.

The first to do so was E.Leclerc, which opened a section in the summer of 2018 at Roques-sur-Garonne, near Toulouse. Since then they have opened a further fifty sections, and another twenty were planned when Connexion got in touch with the store at the end of 2021. 

Customers can buy second-hand goods which have been tested and cleaned with a one-year guarantee. They can also take anything they wish to sell into the store, where they are priced and if that is agreed, exchanged for E.Leclerc vouchers which can be used within twelve months.

Other supermarkets were quick to follow, including Auchan, Super U, Casino and Carrefour. 

Jean-Baptiste Prévoteau, director of sales at Carrefour, says that having an in-house second-hand section is a strong trend in the retail trade. The supermarket started in spring 2020 with a pilot project at their Les Ulis store in the south-western suburbs of Paris. 

It worked well and by the beginning of this year, they expected there to be around twenty stores all around France with a Carrefour coin occasion:

“We did this because there was a demand from clients and to provide an additional service attractive to customers. We think customers are confident that if they sell or buy second-hand in one of our stores they will get a good deal, because we are a well-known brand. For any second-hand good purchased with us, the customer will get a one-year guarantee.”

He says they work with Cash Converters who specialise in second-hand sales, with their own shops throughout France: “If you want to sell something you take it in, it will be assessed, a price proposed which is negotiable and if you accept the price you will be given cash on the spot, which you do not have to spend at Carrefour. Two-thirds of goods are televisions, hi-fis, telephones and small computers. 

“In addition, there is culture – books, vinyl discs and bande dessinées – and luxury jewellery and baggage. We also put the goods to sell on partner online sites, cashconverters.fr and lebijoucash.fr”.

The second-hand sections are under a double franchise to both Carrefour Occasion and Cash Converters. Carrefour benefits from a small rental, but more importantly, Mr Prévoteau says, by attracting customers to the store. It can lead to purchases. Young customers who buy the latest video game, may for example sell it second-hand soon after to go some way to paying for the next most recent game that has just come out.

When a new space opens the first five or six weeks are for sellers only, so that there can be a build-up of stock: “This also creates a buzz,” says Mr Prévoteau, “as people wonder what there will be on offer when it opens and gives a good build up to the opening. It is a great additional service and animation for our stores.”

It is little wonder that supermarkets do not want to be left out of the second-hand market which is booming in France. Xerfi, a private company producing reports on the economy, estimated it was worth more than €7billion in 2020. 

Other specialised mainstream stores have also introduced second-hand sales. You can sell and buy sports equipment at Décathlon either in shops or online; electrical appliances at Darty; digital equipment, books, toys and other products at Fnac. 

Ikea recently held a drive over eighteen days in November persuading customers to take back their old and no longer used IKEA furniture in return for vouchers.

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