France

Market overview

All French shops and businesses have been encouraged to fully reopen, provided they observe strict distancing measures.

Bars, cafés and restaurants have reopened, in accordance with a set of social distancing and hygiene protocols.

After an increase in cases in some parts of France during August, cities are now asking for more restrictions, including wearing masks inside public spaces and outdoors when crowded.

French news agencies Radio France International and France 24 also provide the latest information on COVID-19 in France.

For more information on doing business in France, visit myNZTE - our free online portal for curated, in-depth information and guidance. 


Economy and trade

The Prime Minister of France has characterised the impact of COVID-19 on the French economy as 'brutal'. In June, France's Minister of the Economy announced that GDP is expected to contract by 11% this year, compared to previous estimates of 8%.

The French economy is now reported to have shrunk by 13.8% in the June 2020 quarter, the largest decline on record. This was 19% lower than the same quarter in 2019. A rebound is expected in the September quarter, with activity gradually returning in the region, but France is generally not expected to recover its 2019 GDP levels until 2022.

Exports fell by a quarter, imports by 17.3% and household consumption by 11% over the June 2020 quarter. By industry, the largest decline was recorded in construction, with a 24.1% decrease in June.

Supply chain, freight & logistics

All French ports, warehouses, and logistics platforms remain open. However companies should expect some delays due to sanitary border controls within the EU and some fuel stations on French highways having closed in March.

Freight forwarders are working as major ports remain open, but freight may be slowed down by certain flight and border restrictions. Freight on trains is also operating as usual, albeit with increased hygiene measures.

Airfreight is continuing as usual, although there are disruptions with some terminals closing. Paris's Orly terminal, which closed during lockdown, has now partially reopened.

According to the National Truck Federation (FNTR), 86% of transport companies are experiencing a total or partial cessation of their activity, and on average 59% of trucks are no longer able to travel due to a lack of demand. This is primarily due to some sectors having stopped or significantly decreasing their activities (such as the automotive sector).

Insurance

Some insurance providers are not insuring any loss, damage or delay to some cargo going to France (or elsewhere in Europe) under the current circumstances, so stay in touch proactively with your insurance providers.

Additional info

GEODIS provides up to date information on how supply chains are operating across France.

Government support

Since the beginning of the crisis, over €450 billion has been spent in French government aid for businesses.

The measures are summarised below and more information on eligibility/how to apply can be found on the French Government website here.

  • Tax deferrals or rebates: Postponing payment of social security contributions and/or direct taxes such as payroll tax and local taxes (CFE) for up to three months. In particular, corporate income tax is delayed until 15 June for all companies. At this stage, VAT or other indirect taxes are not covered by these measures.

  • Cash support of €1,500 for small and independent businesses forced to close during the lockdown or experiencing significant turnover loss (over 50%). Payment of utility bills and rent can also be deferred.

  • State-guaranteed cash loans until 31 December to support company cash flow. This loan may be up to three months of the company's 2019 turnover or two years of payroll.

  • Support from the State and the Banque de France (credit mediation) to negotiate with banks a rescheduling of bank loans.

  • Partial unemployment scheme – to retain jobs, the company can pay compensation equal to 70% of gross salary (around 84% of net salary). Employees with minimum wage or less were 100% compensated until June, when it changed to 84%, with 16% to be paid by the employer. The State will reimburse the company for salaries up to €6,927 gross monthly.

  • Support for companies handling a conflict with customers or suppliers through mediation.

  • The recognition by the State and local authorities of the Coronavirus as a case of emergency (Force Majeure) for public contracts. Consequently, for all state and local government procurement, penalties for delays will not be applied and insurance may cover losses of turnover, depending on how companies are insured.

These measures have been summarised by PWC here.

Business continuity plans are being implemented by banks and businesses to try to maintain a minimum level of activity. Banks are being asked to provide loans to businesses with a French Government guarantee.

Additional measures were introduced for the automotive and tourism sectors. Measures include various wage and consumer subsidies, cash support, and staff capability building.

Advice to exporters

If you employ people in France, we recommend you speak to your local accountant to help you access French Government schemes, particularly the wage subsidy scheme.

The French Employers' Federation provides information on COVID-19 for businesses based in France (French language).

In terms of immediate activity, make the safety and wellbeing of teams your priority, and invest as needed to ensure a safe and healthy working environment. Many businesses are allowing employees to work from home where this is possible. Check in with your business partners and see how they are doing and how you might be able to support them during this time.

Some contracts in France are still being signed, with business being done virtually. Some firms have begun to slowly transition back into the office but face to face meetings are limited. There is a big difference between the Paris region where restrictions are still in place, and the rest of France, where more freedom is allowed. It is a good time to push your solutions if you are an exporter already in-market, maintain your market share, keep connected with your contacts in market, or consider expanding into a different segment.

At a higher level, take a strategic look at your 2020 plans. Incorporate the latest market condition changes into your 2020 budget, and rebalance costs and activity based on revised revenue forecasts. Monitor your supply chain closely, realign your product offerings, commercial organisation, channel partners and marketing approach to respond to changing market conditions – both now and after the epidemic ends. Also keep a close watch for potential opportunities and be ready to move quickly if they present themselves.

Consumer sentiment

McKinsey has carried out a survey on the French during the COVID-19 crisis. The survey found that French consumers are concerned about the economy during the crisis, with low expectations of purchases moving online.

  • 82% of French consumers feel unsure or pessimistic about economic recovery after COVID-19

  • Over 44% are spending more carefully and delaying purchases they would otherwise make

  • Over two-thirds of respondents believe their finances will be impacted for more than two months because of COVID-19

  • Unlike consumers in other countries, the French expect to decrease spending on grocery over the next two weeks

  • Despite the nationwide lockdown, consumers' expectations of shifting consumption online remain minimal, except for at-home entertainment.

Business operations

The French Government is advising businesses to work from home where possible, but most businesses have now reopened.

Companies are encouraged to keep their activity running, especially in the food, construction, utilities and transport sectors. However, stringent sanitary measures apply.

The services sector is significant in France, and 40% of the workforce could work from home. The online tools most used in France are WhatsApp, Slack, Teams, Zoom, WebEx and Tribalee.

Travel

On 8 April, French authorities introduced a requirement to complete a Certificate for international travel from abroad to mainland France in order to enter France.

France's borders with other EU countries reopened on 15 June.


Sector insights

As is to be expected, numerous sectors have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you'll find information on any COVID-19 effects across important sectors and industries in France.

Overview

In France, the luxury and manufacturing sectors are seeing the effects of COVID-19. A decrease in turnover was expected for the luxury sector due to the global nature of its activity and the impact of COVID-19 on consumers globally.

Major French multinational corporations such as Total, Airbus and Vinci have warned that they won't meet their forecasted revenues for 2020 or will have to dramatically reduce their investments.

However, sectors such as construction and textiles have begun to operate again after temporarily suspending their activities to comply with more stringent sanitary rules. Some luxury companies such as Louis Vuitton, Hermès and L'Oreal are now pivoting to manufacture masks and hand sanitiser gel.

The French Employers Federation has surveyed their members and other professional federations in France. Insights they have found include:

  • The building and construction sector has almost stopped (over 90% of its activity), with approximately 26% of businesses beginning to think about re-opening with increased safety measures in place.

  • The key issues in the manufacturing sector are the lack of customers, suppliers and staff which is affecting the sub-sectors (automotive, furniture and textile).

  • There has been a 15% decrease in electricity consumption compared to the usual consumption levels seen in March, which has resulted in lower fuel sales.

  • Sectors that are continuing as usual or seeing a slight increase in sales are the food industry, health, chemicals, wood and paper.

There is increased demand for some services such as banking, insurance and telecommunications. However, other services are in significant decline – air transport, rail (40% for freight, 93% for passenger), and cleaning services.

Additional resources

Below you can find information and contact details for other New Zealand government and international agencies regarding their response to COVID-19.

New Zealand Government agencies

Covid19.govt.nz
COVID-19 helpline for businesses
Business.govt.nz
New Zealand Customs
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
New Zealand Export Credit (NZEC)
MFAT Export Helpline
MFAT Safetravel
Callaghan Innovation
Immigration
Ministry of Health
WorkSafe New Zealand
myNZTE

Global agencies

World Health Organization (WHO)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Contact NZTE

We're available to talk to you about any issues your export business is facing due to COVID-19.

For existing NZTE customers, please contact your New Zealand-based Customer Manager.

If you're unsure who to contact or haven't worked with us before, you can call NZTE on 0800 555 888 or email below and one of our Customer Advisors will help you.