British expats buying everyday essentials from the UK as French prices are too high

by Ray Clancy on July 22, 2010

An increasing number of British expats living in France are buying everyday essentials like food shopping in the UK and having it delivered because it is cheaper.

Some have even set up businesses where they take Internet orders, drive to the UK with an empty van and buy the goods in supermarkets like Tesco before heading back across the channel and delivery the shopping to the customer.

One reason for the growing niche market is that French supermarkets, and shops in general, do not indulge in the massive price-cutting that goes on in the UK as competition laws forbid the practice.

One woman living in Normandy says that even with the delivery cost she can save around €50 on her weekly shop. ‘It is also an opportunity to buy some of our favourite things like curry sauces, Marmite and baked beans. Although these products are available in French supermarkets they are about three times the price and that makes them into a treat rather than an everyday item,’ said Jayne Jones.

And it is not just food that is cheaper back in Blighty. Plumbing supplies, car parts, tyres, paint, DIY goods and even shoes are items that are frequently bought by Brits living in France.

One plumber said that a replacement part for a boiler was going to cost £80 in England but €300 in France.

One reason for this rush back to the UK with empty cars and vans is that the matter of competition is not as clear-cut as many people would like to think. For example, there is a principle in France that, in general, retailers are not allowed to sell below cost. This is the French interpretation of an EU wide law that prohibits predatory pricing, that is using market power and shear size to price at a loss to drive opposition out of the market and to create monopoly situations.

It is a law that is, however, largely disregarded in the UK. The French are not the only people to disregard EU law when it suits them. Hence UK supermarkets will continue to discount.

‘There is such a difference in price that once a year its worth driving back and filling up with all the things that are cheaper. You can visit the family at the same time,’ said Graham Weekly, who lives near Limoges.

The situation is also boosting Internet shopping. UK firms like Next, Marks & Spencer and Littlewoods all deliver to France for a very small delivery charge. Ebay is also popular with expats. One expat said that his car recently n needed a new clutch, which was going to cost €300 from a local garage but he found one on Ebay for £38 plus £10 delivery.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

ShopNow UK July 26, 2010 at 8:13 am

Its always great to know of a reliable shopping site whereever you are in the World

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Martin Zuerner October 14, 2011 at 7:01 pm

I am thinking of starting up this type of business delivering just about any type of food and flatpack stuff plus carparts etc to France from England can anyone tell me is there really a great demand for this or is it totally saturated already? Any help would be appreciated..many thanks Martin

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