France is a major toy market – after the mighty USA, and the Asian powerhouses of China and Japan, France is one of the European ‘group of three’ – along with the UK and Germany - with the largest market size in Europe driving significant retail sales.
“The French market is on approximately the level of the UK and Germany. It’s quite a dynamic market which has increased in the last few years.” Yann Fresnel, Toy Influence
With a population of approximately 67m people currently, France is projected to hit 70m inhabitants by 2030, making France’s population growth rate one of the fastest in Europe. France also has one of the biggest economies in the world as a fully developed nation, La France has the 6th biggest economy in the world with a massive GDP of $2.7 trillion USD.
France is a founding member of the European Union, placing the country at the heart of a European trading bloc and political framework with a much bigger population and economy: 447 million people live in the EU, which would make the EU the 3rd biggest country in the world by population if it were just one country. French toy companies thus have easy access to a market with total GDP of just under $18 trillion USD.
Thus, as a major developed economy, set within the European Union, with all the benefits that brings, disposable income and spending on toys per capita in France is significant.
The Changing face of retail
Historically, the major grocery retailers, called hypermarché, were super strong in France, with very strong price promotions on toys at the back end of the year becoming a major market driver. These major chains use these price promotions during peak toy selling season – which obviously are not profitable – to drive traffic into store to boost their turnover across all categories in store at a time of the year with higher spending. Looking back in time, these retailers, including Carrefour, Auchan and Leclerc, had over half of the total market for toys in France. Now they represent approximately to 1/3 of the total market. Their market share has reduced along a similar timescale to the growth of e-commerce.
“Online retail is about 30% of toy sales in France, driven by Amazon, Cdiscount and FNAC – those are the top 3 players.” Yann Fresnel, Toy Influence
The French toy specialist store chains also play a very important role in the market offering a broader selection of products versus the hypermarché. There has been some turmoil and consolidation among the specialist chains in recent times with receiverships and acquisitions. As things stand today, Joué Club a co-operative organisation is a major player, starting out way back in 1952 and with 300 stores in France. The King Jouet chain is another major player with 328 stores currently after taking over 92 Maxi Toys stores. Ludendo Group with La Grand Récré & Picwic Toys make up the other major toy specialist chains.
In addition, there is a number of multi-specialist retailers such as FNAC who specialise in a few different product categories (in the case of FNAC the product mix includes books, toys & games as well as DVDs and other physically delivered home entertainment. This type of retailers tends to list a narrower product line of toys, but with a focus on quality products fitting the other products on sale.
Normally, if you want to build a strong direct to retail business in France, you need to hire local salespeople or sales agents, but there are some complications to be aware of in France. Firstly, the employment law is quite protective of the employee, and the laws and regulations relating to terminating employees are more complicated and costly than in many other countries. Secondly, there are European regulations meaning that residual sales commissions may need to be paid to agents for a year or two after the working relationship has finished. It is worth seeking specialist advice in advance of making contractual commitments in France to avoid unexpected problems later.
France Toy Market: Product Culture
Overall, the most prominent toy brands in France are similar to those in other European markets – with top movie related franchises and classic toy brands being strong, but there are a number of points of difference in the French market.
France is a very strong market for board games, with around 1/5th of all toy sales coming from the board games category in 2020 according to the FJP - France’s trade association covering the toy business.
France has always had a strong element of local production, and whereas many other countries have seen production move to Asia, France has retained some local manufacturing. More recently this has been increasing.
“Made in France is really growing. A lot of companies are producing their products in France. More than 10% is now made in France.” Yann Fresnel, Toy Influence
Overall, then, France is a major toy market offering significant opportunities. However, some local cultural and commercial differences which needs to be well managed to achieve success in the market.