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Opening A Shop


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An English friend & I are considering opening a shop in our small town in Loire (42). At the moment the thoughts are going in the way of a three way split between English imports (baked beans, biscuits etc), a "Tourist shop" (maps, decent post cards, offering guided bike rides/walks etc) and a Cyber café. I know this sounds like a melange of different stuff, but the premises we're thinking about would lend itself to three different focuses (focii?).

I'd be really interested to hear from anyone who had experience of any of these ventures, including what sold well, what didn't sell and so forth. And generally any thoughts - of course, I'd love positive happy-happy comments, but in reality, the truth might be better! I don't think we would be in competition with anyone else on these boards - we seem to be well away from the nearest place doing anything like this.

There isn't a huge English contingent where we are, so this needs to be carefully thought through - our French friends have been "converted" to some English products so we'd like to be able to supply those. We appreciate that we couldn't survive on just the English stuff alone & so need other focii (focuses?!). We were wary of looking as though we were trying to anglicize the town, but on consideration, feel that we are known as part of the community here for it not to seem like a take over bid.

One question in particular that someone who already has opened a shop like this might be able to help with ius: would we have to pay some sort of import duty on stuff being brought into France from England? Where would we find out about such details? The local Site de Proximité will be able to help with general questions about setting up a business, but that question seems a too bit specialised for them to know the answer. Does anyone know the answer - or where we could find it out?

Thank you for any assistance!


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I noticed one of my local supermarkets had started selling "English" products recently. A shelving area called "Specialist" - tins of Ambrosia Creamed Rice Pudding, Robinson's Barley Water Squashes, etc.. I was quite surprised as there are not many British people around here wither.

Anyway, if the supermarkets are starting to target British tastes then you may find your "British fare" under price pressure from supermarkets fro those living in the area.

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Is your town popular with tourists?  I would think that a shop selling maps and post-cards would be geared mainly towards holiday makers.  The same would be true for a cyber cafe, as anyone wanting to use the internet regularly would already have an internet connection at home.

Is there a tourism office in the town?  If not, is it because it does not attract enough tourists to make it worthwhile?  If there is already a tourist office, how many of the services you plan to offer are already catered for there?

Would the expenses of running the shop be covered if the majority of your trade was only during July and August?

Sorry if I sound a bit negative, it's just that these were the first things that sprung into my head, and you did ask... [:)]

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It isn't a huge tourist town - but the area is fantastic for wealking & cycling. The local Syndicate d'Initiative is fairly small and grim and (we discovered) not very helpful. We wondered about offering guided cycle tours  as well(and possibly bike hire, although that's only a thought)

The cyber café was a thought because there's not much for the young people to do. A prof at the local Collége thought it might be good for the ados, but who knows...


ETA But thanks for your thoughts. More welcome!

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Doormouse, I opened a shop in April selling english produce, as far as the actual official side went, I couldn't believe the ease of it.

I went to the Chambre De Commerce with the relevant docs required, Passport, Birth Certificate,Marriage Certificate,proof of either ownership of the property to be used or the rental agreement.  I then had to wait about two weeks for the Siret no.  You can trade from the day you tell them you want to open without your kbis.  (piece of paper with siret no. on).   If you are going to sell alcohol you need to see the Douanes for a license, this was also very easy, no poilce checks etc just took 10 mins to issue and 30 mins to discuss with the civil servants what we are going to sell etc


The French in our local town are very supportive and although we live in Poitou Charente with a large ex-pat community I would say 60% of my clientel are french and 40% are english.


The best sellers for me for the french customers are without a doubt English Marmalade, Shortbread biscuits (boxes with tartan on them are preferred!!!!!), tea loose and sachet and finally Mildish indian produce ie. Tikka Masala, Korma etc.

The best sellers for the english customers are of course Baked Beans, Tea, Marmalade, Sausages,Bacon,Cheese,Indian Produce and last but not least Fairy Snow and Zoflora.

It will be trial and error with what won't and will sell well, the best thing to do is try and make sure you get your stock with the longest shelf life possible.  I don't know how you will get your stock over but one thing to be wary of, is if you order it from a cash and carry and then have it shipped over via haulage, the cash and carry will as a rule pick the shortest date stuff from there shelves and then you are stuck trying to sell a lot of one item very quickly, by far for me the best way is to try and pick it up yourself. 


The cotistations are not a nice surpise when they are arrive, but the companies will lower payments for you at the beginning if you can show them your income etc that you are or aren't earning. 

Please pm me with any other questions, I'm sure there was something else I was going to say but inbetween customers i've forgotten.



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if there are alot of youngsters near you and they don't have the service at a library...I'd go for the cyber cafe....but would it be cost effective?......could you offer something else like indoor bowling or big screen tv (dvds only) maybe for cultural films or to do with subjects at lycee.....juke box.......the odd organised event such as nail painting..or head massage or pottery painting...somewhere they can get together and play music......I don't know, something that is sociable and they pay a fee for.
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Thank you for your help Emma, I'll PM you if we go that route...

I've just had two bombshells in one go, one being my possible business partner has decided that this isn't really what she wanted to do. Fairy nuff, no probs but a bit of a surprise.

And the other being that my husband who was lucratively earning in the UK has handed in his notice. I knew he was thinking of it, but apparentkly things got so sh*t that he did it. So I may be back in the UK working now!! And he might be opening the shop.

And mobile food vans - anyone done those? Burger/pizza etc?

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Tina ('er indoors) opened an English grocers in Dept 22 back in March. Her experiences are much like Emma's, although our customers are split about 50% French and 50% non-French (quite a few Americans & Irish). The non-French acount for about 70% of the turnover, however.

We pitch ourselves (price-wise) at about 30% lower than our local Super-U's English section - to get the punters in. Obviously our range is significantly larger than Super-U or Champion (in this area), BUT, as Michael Dell put it; "The customer doesn't want a choice, the customer wants what the customer wants". With the French, it is up to you to tell them what they want - you need to be able to tell them how to use a Pataks Korma curry mix - if they can't read the instructions (Add the contents of this jar to cooked meat & heat through), they won't buy it!

Biggest problem is supplies all of the wholesalers I have found in France charge HT prices that are about the same as our TTC retail prices - makes decent margins difficult! We are a few hours drive from Portsmouth and had to invest in a Frezzer/Fridge/Ambient van (about 75% of the budget) to enable us to buy frozen/fresh essentials and transport them - within the regulations, which are strict. I don't know what others do, but I don't reckon that one can survive in this business without fresh/frozen food (chilled and frozen accounts for about 30% of our business - and the margins are better).

If you want a supply of frozen/fresh delivered to your door - PM me!

We also looked at Cyber cafe's & the like, but we couldn't make the maths work. We decided that any (new) cafe would need to be city-centre, where the rents were extortionate & we would need to offer alot more than internet access (which most of our target audience,  16-26 y/olds, have at home) - we looked at "music cafe's", American style diners, "youth clubs" etc etc, with/without catering (all without alcohol, because of the difficulty in getting class IV licences) - but the set-up costs were just too large for the potential returns.

If however, you can make it work & the idea is transferrable, talk to me!

BTW, you are at liberty to import (virtually) anything without a licence or duty - free movement of goods. Remember that retailing is heavily regulated in France. As Emma says, a basic off-sales alcohol licecnce is easy (& free), you will not be allowed to sell medicines (of any sort) or tobacco (or pattern car parts, or anything dangerous, or magazines etc etc..)

Good luck, let us know what you decide to do - keep your customers close, keep your competitors closer still....


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