France is not just a great place to visit, it’s also a very strong toy market – with annual sales of around €3bn to €3.5bn.
And as it’s so close to our shores, surely it should be the first port of call for export sales? Well yes and no.
French toy retail has seen a long term market share slide away from the once all mighty hypermarche towards the toy specialist channel.
Whereas once the might of Carrefour, Auchan, Leclerc and a few others added up to over half of the market, now these grocery behemoths command around a third of the market, with the toy specialists adding up to just under half the total toy market in France (based on several public domain estimates easily available via Google).
This shift to the toy specialists is generally seen as a good thing, as they run a broader range of products and are focused on toys, and committed therefore to the long term good health of the toy business above all.
Hypermarche price promotions in Q4 can be huge volume drivers, but as we know with price promotions, that sales boost comes with some other baggage to manage.
The French toy market is not that different versus the UK market in terms of product mix - pre-school is very strong in France, as are licensed products. Perhaps the most notable difference is the raft of French originated brands derived from France’s own comic book universe and its own content production industry.
As part of the European Union, British companies can in theory export without too much restriction to France (at least for now... referendum pending), however, it is not always that straightforward.
Beware of any product featuring video or audio content in France. France has very strong protection for authors, producers, musicians etc. via SACEM (it’s rights fee collection agency).
Ex colleagues of mine will reflect on shared pain when talking about content clearances for toy and game products in France, just beware – French rules and clearances should be taken very seriously.
Also, should you decide to hire staff and set up an office in France, beware – French employment law gives strong protection to workers.
The saying goes it’s easier to chop off your own hand than fire an employee in France. From unfortunate personal experience I can confirm that to be the case. You might find it less risky and certainly less complicated to work via distributors in the first instance.
For more information on the French Toy Industry: http://www.fjp.fr/