Supermarkets in France may sell ‘non-essentials’ today

Ban on non-essential items to be fully enforced tomorrow after "day of grace" today, as some smaller shops fight back against new lockdown rules

3 November 2020
A worker at le Verbe Au Soleil in front of the bookshop's food area. Supermarkets in France may sell ‘non-essentials’ todayThis bookshop in Corsica has humorously started selling food and other essential items in a bid to remain open
By Hannah Thompson

“Non-essential” items may continue to be sold in French supermarkets until tomorrow (Wednesday November 4) as a “day of grace” is allowed until these aisles will be required to close under the new lockdown rules.

Supermarkets were banned from selling “non-essential” items by decree by Prime Minister Jean Castex this week, to bring them in line with smaller, local shops that have been required to close under the lockdown.

Read more: Supermarkets in France banned from selling ‘non-essentials’

But the Economy Ministry has confirmed that there will be a day of “tolerance” today (Tuesday November 3), with the rules coming into full force by decree tomorrow.

In a press release, it said: “[The decree defining necessary items] will be published on Tuesday morning, so there is therefore tolerance until Wednesday.”

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire held a meeting on Monday, November 2 with several representatives of large and medium supermarket businesses, and a decree detailing which products are considered “essential” is to be published today.

Supermarket aisles that sell items considered to be “non-essential” - such as books, DVDs or party clothes - will be inaccessible to the public and/or their products will not be permitted for sale. Aisles that sell “essential” goods - such as food or garden equipment - will be able to remain open.

Electronics group FNAC-Darty - whose shops have been permitted to remain open - has also announced that it will voluntarily be closing aisles that sell non-essential goods “as a way to take responsibility”.

Shops fighting back

Some smaller shops across France have fought back at the lockdown rules that would otherwise force them to close.

Mayors across the country have allowed certain shops - such as bookshops - to remain open by decree, arguing that they “need to continue to be able to make a living”, and that all Covid-19 precautions are being enforced.

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

One shopkeeper in Blotzheim in Haut-Rhin, on the Franco-Swiss border, has even started a hunger strike in protest at the new closure, which she says will put her clothing business in jeopardy.

And one bookshop in Corsica has started selling food and offering tools-for-hire in a last-ditch bid to remain open despite the lockdown.

Le Verbe au Soleil in Porto-Vecchio - which normally sells books - is now selling fruit, beer, pet food, and toilet paper to customers too, as well as offering them tools for hire.

The move has been made in some humour, but it points to the desperation many shops have felt at the prospect of another month of closure.

And, despite the shop’s sale of food, it will very likely need to close by the end of today, as its book aisles will no longer be accessible to the public.

Book publisher, writer and bookseller unions le Syndicat national de l’édition, le Conseil permanent des écrivains, and the Syndicat national de la librairie française, have called on the Prime Minister to classify books as “essential items”.

In a press release, they said: “Local bookshops, which cover our whole country, are organised and well-equipped [to manage Covid]. They are perfectly capable of welcoming readers in the context of a new lockdown, in safe and sanitary conditions.”

Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has also appeared to support the move, telling new source BFMTV yesterday: “Do not buy from Amazon. Amazon is the death of all our bookshop and the lives of our neighbourhoods.”

Culture Minister Roselyn Bachelot has encouraged the public to use “click and collect” services that exist, if they wish to buy a book. This involves buying the book direct from the bookshop online, and then coming to collect it in person - without necessarily going into the shop.

 

What is essential and what is not?

The Economy Ministry is set to publish a definite list of items that will confirm this list officially today.

While most non-food items sold in supermarkets are not allowed, the ministry has said that makeup, perfume and similar cosmetics on sale in supermarkets will continue to be sold.

It said that while these are not necessarily “essential”, they are very different in style and quality to the cosmetics and perfumes sold in specialist shops such as Sephora and Yves Rocher, and do not therefore represent “unfair competition”.

Products considered 'non-essential':
  • Cultural items (books, DVDs, etc)
  • Toys
  • Clothes and textiles
  • Jewellery
  • Decoration, homeware
  • White goods
  • Flowers
Products considered 'essential':
  • Food products (fresh, frozen, bread, drinks, delicatessen)
  • Pet food
  • Petrol and fuel
  • Garage items for vehicle maintenance
  • Garden maintenance products and tools
  • Computer and communication equipment
  • Magazines, newspapers and paper
  • Specific clothes for work such as overalls
  • Parapharmacy products such as sterilising alcohol and bandages
  • Cosmetics and everyday makeup/skincare items sold in supermarkets

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