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31 Jan – 4 Feb 2018
France is not just one of the largest three toy markets in Europe, it is also in the top six toy markets globally. It represents significant opportunity, and is therefore hard to ignore if you are a toy company looking to maximise your export sales. The challenge though is that there are a number of factors which can make doing toy business in France somewhat more difficult, complex and risky than many other markets.
The largest retail channel in the French toy market is the toy specialist channel. Unlike neighbour Germany or the United States however, this is not driven by independent retailers to quite the same degree – independent retailers are included in this channel, primarily via membership of Joué Club, a co-operative, but there are also major chains active in the market. The major toy retail chains are La Grande Récré with over 200 stores - owned by Groupe Ludendo, who also own the smaller chain Starjouet which has close to 60 stores; King Jouet which also has stores across France, and in some markets beyond; and Toys R Us with c. 45 stores, operating a nearly identical store format as in other markets.
The second toy retail channel in France (now representing in the region of 1/3 of the toy market) is the hypermarché. Once a massive force in French toy retail, the market share of this channel has declined over the past decade or two and shifted to the specialists. Nevertheless, the retail selling power of Carrefour, Auchan, E. Leclerc and several others is mightily impressive.
These retailers operate similarly in the toy aisle to generalist mass market retailers in other markets i.e. they take a narrower range of mostly hero items with considerable promotional activity at key trading periods. A practical point to note is that the timescale of the sell-in process is earlier than with many other retailers in many other markets. My French colleagues and partners have always chased me the hardest for barcodes, weights & other listing information on the basis that they HAD to submit them pre-Christmas to get full listings with the hypermarché the following peak selling season (!). If at the time of publication of this article (Mid November 2014) you haven’t already previewed your products to the hypermarché for back end 2015, then it’s getting hard to secure full listings.
LOCAL BUSINESS, CULTURAL & REGULATORY DIFFERENCES
In my experience, France is one of the more difficult markets to do business in for non-local companies. For sure you can find distributors who operate in the market and who will manage all the local factors, but if you want to go direct, be aware of a few points: French employment law offers considerably more protection & rights to employees versus many other countries, especially the USA for instance. There is a saying in France (according to my French toy contacts) that it can be easier to chop off your right hand than to fire/discharge an employee in France!
Furthermore, if you have products with music/media in, be sure your paperwork is absolutely in order, as France has its own musical rights agency, and it’s not uncommon for music rights to be granted ‘for the world outside France’! There are stories of musical products with ‘global clearances’ being stopped and not allowed into France/on sale until ‘local’ musical rights/fees were paid – beware, and certainly look into this issue ahead of shipment to avoid delays.
In terms of products, the French market is fairly similar to the UK or North American markets in terms of which categories of products have more or less market share. One notable difference though is that France has its own long established and highly regarded media world, with a strong comic book culture, local kids TV programming and the French movie industry, so there can be a local flavour to products in some stores which we don’t always see to the same extent in other European markets. Also the French (board) games market is strong with numberous local publishers/manufacturers.
As mentioned above, the local media landscape is very strong in France. The state broadcaster France Television runs several channels, with the privately owned commercial broadcaster TF1 having the highest share, with a strong Kids TV element featured.
Nearly 150 French companies exhibit at the Spielwarenmesse, so this is probably the easiest place to arrange to meet a number of French distribution companies. In terms of visiting France, while most French companies will either have an office or an available meeting space in Paris, the main offices can be spread further afield, and France is a large country to travel around so you might need a few days to visit all your contacts.
For further information on the toy market in France, the French toy trade association – Federation Francaise Des Industries Jouet Puericulture is a good source of reference: http://www.fjp.fr/