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September 2020

Lille, inside Europe’s retail valley 1/3

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The Covid-19 crisis is causing the French to vastly change their consumehabits. Online purchasing practices, a desire to buy locally, looking for a sense of purpose and transparency are changes that are shaking up retail forecasts. These are also resonating strongly as a call to remake retail. Even if we cannot exclude returning to “business as usual” once we are on the other side of this crisis, the pandemic has given ammunition to those who have, for years, been advocating for change.  


The Covid-19 Crisis: from confinement to action 

During confinement, the French people focused on self-care and quality of life: when constrains forced them to abandon certain habits, they took on new ones. Businesses were for forced to react and adapt in real time. They also needed to show their willingness to contribute to the entire community. 

Fraise Phalempinsfirst trend was that the French paid great attention to their food, rediscovering the pleasures of preparing it themselves, using fresh products, and buying locally. “Forty percent of French people state that they discovered new stores close to their homes, and that during the post-confinement period, half of them are actively trying to purchase more products locally.” 

If the goal of consumers was to limit the number of trips they take, the food industry’s goal was, to avoid national shortages. It is within this context that drive-throughs increased by 150% and food-related e-commerce (local producers, short trips, etc.) increased by 98%** 

Another trend that was revealed during France’s confinement was the focus on taking care of one’s body, specifically by practicing sports-related activities at home.

Nicolas Pelletier, City Leader in the Lille area for Decathlon observed,

Outdoor sports and club sports were completely shut down and sports enthusiasts turned toward activities that could be practiced at home (fitness, yoga and the like) as well as adaptive devices like indoor bike trainers.   

After spending weeks shut in, the French wanted to take care of their interior spaces as well, expressing the desire to decorate and improve their homes. These sectors were big winners during the crisis.

Michel Koch, Director of the Institute du Connected Commerce notes,

During confinement, the home improvement, sports and food industries functioned well while prêt-à-porter fashion collapsed.Boulanger, Leroy Merlin and Jardiland had already implemented new customer experiences and ramped them up, also putting drive-throughs in place.

This renewed interest by the French in their interior living spaces lead to Leroy Merlin, based in the Hauts-de-France region, surpassing Fnac and Amazon in terms of consumer perception. Leroy Merlin became the most frequented brand in France, according to the BrandIndex. 

Rayon bricolage

*Research survey Fly Research office

** Nielsen Survey 

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