Here is a study which is timely to animate the debates of the Assises du commerce which opens this Wednesday 1er December in Bercy. According to a survey for the Bonial company, more than one in two French people (53%) plan to do Christmas shopping on Amazon. The American company, which has only been in France for 20 years, is thus far ahead of much older French players such as Fnac, Leclerc or Décathlon.
This digital revolution in commerce is not new, but it is accelerating. In 2019, online commerce represented 9% of the market. In 2020, under the effect of confinements, its share jumped to 14%. It should continue to climb this year to reach 15%. An inexorable progression which obviously has major repercussions for the retail trade and its some two million jobs. What to encourage Bercy to seize the subject.
“ Getting into business is something new for the Ministry of the Economy. But it is an essential part of the French economy and culture ”, recognizes Bruno Le Maire. The rise in the front line of the State should thus make it possible to imagine a global policy for trade “ as there are already for industry or agriculture “, insists Alain Griset, Minister for SMEs.
New attention appreciated
This new attention is appreciated by the sector which had experienced very badly, during the first waves of the epidemic, the closure of businesses deemed “non-essential”. “It was time for the state to react after being overtaken by speed. We must now move forward without delay and find new regulations to avoid an economic and societal disaster ”, estimates Francis Palombi, president of the Confederation of traders of France.
The sector, in fact, is faltering under the pressure of changes in consumption patterns. The hypermarket model which has made the success of French large-scale retailing finds itself in competition with the boom in delivery proposals. In the cities, the commercial vacancy is increasing. And if large groups are multiplying innovations to try to catch up in terms of digitization, small traders have a hard time keeping up.
Take stock of the sector’s difficulties
” Facing these challenges will require considerable investment. But to make these investments, we must find ways to increase the profitability of businesses. This requires committed actors but also support ”, analysis Emmanuel Le Roch, general delegate of Procos, which brings together 300 major brands.
The trade foundations will therefore make it possible to take stock of the sector’s difficulties, around four projects. The priority, explains Alain Griset, the Deputy Minister in charge of SMEs, is “ so that both can talk to each other to make a diagnosis and consider the business of tomorrow ”. A challenge in a sector where divergent interests are legion, as repeatedly illustrated by the insoluble controversies over the date of sales or the extension of Sunday work.
In addition, the ambition displayed by Bruno Le Maire to “Project trade in the XXIe century ” will also encounter political calendar difficulties. The Minister of the Economy recognizes that “Not all decisions can be taken before the presidential election.” The fiscal measures, in particular, will thus have to wait for the next five-year term even though they constitute a large part of the demands, from the reduction of the tax on commercial surfaces to the possibility of further taxing e-commerce warehouses. .
Even if the foundations therefore do not find their full outlet in the short term, the government assures us that it is ready to rapidly change the regulations. Ideas are not lacking. Some would like to block commercial rents throughout the year 2022, in order to relieve businesses that are struggling to recover from the crisis. Others would like a drastic limitation of promotion periods, especially in e-commerce.
A site in four workshops
After the opening session Wednesday 1er December at Bercy, the Assises will take the form of four workshops which will have to make proposals in early 2022.
The first workshop will be dedicated to the “Reconquest of trade in the territories” and will deal with issues such as commercial vacancy, revitalization of city centers or rural areas.
The second dossier will be that of “New modes of consumption and new economic models” with the emphasis placed on the necessary digitization of the smallest businesses.
The third workshop will be about “Trade fairness and competitiveness” . There will be a lot of tax issues.
The fourth part will be that of “Employment and skills” around issues related to labor shortages and the effects of automation on certain employees such as cashiers.