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French state to pay delivery fees for bookshops in lockdown

Supermarket chains are also stepping in to help small shops transition to digital sales, as resistance to Amazon and other large online retailers grows

The French state announced yesterday (November 5) it will cover the cost of delivery fees for independent bookshops that are sending orders to customers during confinement in order to “help them continue trading through online sales”.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire and Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot wrote in a joint statement: “This package will allow bookshops to only bill their clients the legal minimum for transportation fees: €0.01.”

Bookshops eligible for this package must be TPE or PME (very small, small or medium-sized businesses) with their main source of income coming from selling new books. 

This comes following vocal support for independent bookshops as the country went into lockdown, and debate over whether they should be considered “essential” and allowed to stay open.

Read more: French bookshops inspire support through lockdown closure

Politicians fear Amazon dominance

The government had already reduced postal tariffs for book deliveries in order to support small businesses against large online retailers such as Amazon during confinement.

Ms Bachelot has encouraged people to avoid using Amazon during confinement in order to protect bookshops, as has Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo.

Unions are still calling for bookshops to reopen as soon as possible. Le Syndicat national de l’édition asked the government in a statement to begin work “now, with representatives from the book industry, on conditions for reopening from November 13”.


Intermarché to help small shops go digital

The Intermarché supermarket chain is also coming to the aid of small businesses that want to trade online during confinement but are not equipped to do so. 

On November 9 the supermarket chain will launch a “solidarity drive” allowing small businesses to list their products on Intermarché’s online store. 

President of Intermarché and Netto, Thierry Cotillard, told news source AFP: “We hear the anger and the distress of small shop owners, and book shops in particular. We hear the discussion about being pushed towards digitalisation and click & collect, but not all shops are necessarily ready.”

“The idea is the give shop owners a hand by letting them use our digital tools, our click & collect platform, initially for bookshops. The ‘click’ will happen on our site, and the ‘collect’ will be done from their shop.”

Supermarket chain Carrefour has also announced it will offer some small shops “a subscription to its [online] marketplace until the end of 2020”.

Supermarkets target Amazon too 

The Intermarché supermarket chain also targeted Amazon in adverts taken out in local and national newspapers yesterday to raise awareness of the initiative. The text referenced the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, saying: “Sorry Jeff, we are already working on making our service available for other local shops that are in difficulty.”

Meanwhile, supermarket chain E.Leclerc has taken a different approach. In some stores, boards have been installed next to “non-essential” aisles closed to customers, directly criticising the government for banning the sale of non-essential items in supermarkets and consequently driving customers to “favour” Amazon and other large online retailers.

MP suggests non-essential sales on GAFA sites should be banned 

Member of Parliament for Les Républicains, Arnaud Viala, has even suggested that the big four US online digital giants – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (known in France as "GAFA") – should be banned from selling non-essential items during confinement. 

Mr Viala said: “As the end of the year approaches, online shopping sites such an Amazon will be the only means people in France have to do their shopping.” He believes this will create “unfair competition” in the run-up to Christmas.

Related stories

Which shops can stay open during lockdown in France?

France mayors defend allowing ‘non-essential’ shops to open

Will it save Christmas? French study models lockdown effect

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