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French national sales “les soldes” start Jan. 11, but are they losing energy?

January 10, 2012 1 comment

Think you had enough shopping done during the Christmas holiday?

The French are getting ready for the national sales around France.

They kick off tomorrow January 11 throughout the country, and you can see a full list of dates here for each département (Paris being the 75th on the list).

You’ll see many départements have sales until February 14, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Background
The French government authorizes stores to use the word “les soldes” as an official sales period twice a year (January and July) to foster economic growth and consumption.

Stores are free to have discounts, special offers and promotions throughout the rest of the year, but they cannot use “les soldes” as an expression outside of these two time periods.
Tomorrow Economic Minister François Baroin will be the MC of the traditional kick-off of the sales period at Galeries Lafayette.

Economic uncertainty?
Despite all the pomp and festivitives, a new poll done by l’Institut BVA and published by Les Echos newspaper reveals that 36% of French consumers think that the national sales do not have a real purpose any more, and this is even more pronounced among younger consumers.

While the sales might be less trendy than last year, and this drop in enthusiasm may be explained by economic uncertainty, 60% of the French still believe that these periods present special opportunities for good deals.

If you do choose to shop, make sure to remember that prices will generally decrease as the time period goes on (up to 80% off in some cases by the end), but that the best items will likely be gone.

You may also want to check out this page for more links and information on fashion and shopping.

Happy Shopping!

Interviews with American expats in France: cultural perspective

Bonjour!

I was recently interviewed by Margarita Gokun Silver, MPH, CPCC, PNLP at her site here (article below). I sought to explain my story and provide a little does of cultural insight into living in France based on my experiences.

My fellow expat in France, Lindsey, was also interviewed about doing business in France as she started her own company, Lola’s Cookies, selling cookies. You can find that article here.

I invite you to leave your own cultural perspectives in the comments section below.

An American in France
Posted on December 5, 2011

There have been quite a few famous Americans (and other expats) in history that decided to either settle or live in France for long periods of time. Today many follow their example and in this blog post we interview Michael Barrett, an American who is now living in France.

Global Coach Center (GCC): How long have you lived in France and how did you come to live there?

Michael: I’ve lived in France now over four years in a row but longer than that over my lifetime. I lived in Paris as a baby and toddler for three years as my father worked here on assignment. My family always had an interest in France so it influenced my decision to study the language and culture in middle school, high school and then in college. My first trip back to France was with the French club of my high school in 2003. During my sophomore year (2nd year) at the University of Notre Dame, I studied abroad in Angers, France 2004-2005, where I lived with a French family, studied in French, traveled and made friends from all over the world. It motivated me to come back.

I followed that with an internship at Sciences Po Paris in 2006, and then after graduating in 2007, I moved to Lyon to be an English assistant. I met my French girlfriend there, pursued graduate studies in communications in Grenoble for two years, during which I worked at AmCham France. In July 2010 I was hired as a Digital Project Manager at New BBDO Paris, and advertising agency. I’ve been here ever since, and I also manage the site Americanexpatinfrance, write for several websites and am involved with the expatriate community while keeping a close group of French friends. I plan on applying for dual citizenship soon.

GCC: What do you love most about living in France?

Michael: My girlfriend, my French friends, the rich culture and gastronomy and history, the diversity of the regions and their characteristics… close proximity to other European countries. A generally balanced approach to life and work…their healthcare system –although it’s not perfect.

GCC: What frustrates you?

Michael: Generalizations about America and its culture, strikes, lack of convenience here (the US is a culture of convenience)…although I’ve gradually come to accept these cultural differences with the traditional French shrug of the shoulders. Every country has its own pros and cons.

GCC: What would you have liked to know that you didn’t before coming to live in France?

Michael: To know how to (try to) master the inner workings of the French civil service bureaucracy and its paperwork, implicit messages (not explicit) and assumptions that you know everything if you don’t ask a question. But I’ve learned how to manage that, too.

GCC: What are three tips you can give people planning to move to France?

Michael:

Learn the language and about the culture as well, as this will not only enrich you but also show a genuine willingness on your part to the French that you’re making an effort and reaching out.

On a related note, be open-minded. This is not America, and there will be some culture shock and things and approaches that are done differently. They have a different perspective here on many things, so approach it with curiosity and don’t be afraid to have friendly debate with French coworkers and friends (make French friends), as long as it’s not on taboo subjects (money, religion) – those are for closer friends usually.

Take a look at practical matters in detail – education, healthcare, taxes, driving regulations, housing – hopefully your employer or organization can help you with these matters. Better to be well prepared than land here and figure out as you go along. That can add to frustration. I’d be happy to advise on questions or refer you to an expert in a field that I don’t master as well.

Again in innovation, French companies score high marks

November 16, 2011 1 comment

It must be innovation week…

In another poll on innovation (Thomson Reuters Top 100 Global Innovators), France has 11 companies on the list (the 3rd most behind Japan with 27 and America with 40). The brilliant chaps over at The Economist have a nice article on this, below here for easy reading (France boldfaced for emphasis on my part).

Where innovation lies
Nov 16th 2011, 16:54 by The Economist online

Where are the world’s most innovative companies and what do they do?

Companies that make semiconductors and other electronic components are collectively the most innovative industry, according to an analysis of patents carried out by Thomson Reuters, an information-services provider. Its “Top 100 Global Innovators” report rates companies by the proportion of their patent applications that are granted; the number of “quadrilateral” patents (those granted in China, Europe, Japan and America); how often patents are cited by other companies; and whether patents relate to new techniques or inventions or are refinements of existing ones. This approach is intended to overcome the limitations of using the number of patents filed or granted as a measure of innovation. Of the 100 companies in the list, which is not ranked and relates to patent activity from 2005-2010, 40 are from America, 27 from Japan and 11 from France. No Chinese companies qualified. The report says this “underscores the fact that although China is leading the world in patent volume, quantity does not equate to influence and quality.”

American Clubs Newsletter – expat events in France

You can check out the latest events all over the country here at the American Clubs website, where you can also sign-up to receive the free newsletter.

I’d like to highlight a couple events in particular. Happy networking!
-an event on doing business in America (for French businesses), with a panel of experts in Lyon June 8
-The US Ambassador cocktail in Paris June 9
-The AmCham France Summer Party in Paris June 15

Abercrombie & Fitch on Champs-Elysées May 19, France & globalization

This article by The Economist (which you all know by now is a preferred publication), talks about what Abercrombie’s arrival in France means for the country being even more globalized and the controversy that globalization often sparks in France.

I completely agree with the last paragraph, cited below (and in bold), based on my experience in France. Many French love criticizing globalization but they also regularly consume global brands. Why is that? Is France anti-globalization or a fully globalized economy? In my opinion, it’s between both. You have world-renown French brands and increasingly global minded young graduates as well as wide adoption of Twitter, Facebook and other digital media, as described in detail by another Economist article.

But you also sometimes have protest and resistance against the arrivals of foreign chains. I certainly respect the right of small shop owners to operate and enjoy French culture, but the country will have to be even more open to the forces of globalization in order to be even more successful in the world economy.

France is indeed “a riddle in a mystery inside an enigma”. But I’m enjoying the ride.

Your thoughts?

France and globalisation
We’ll always have Paris
What the new Champs-Elysées says about France
Apr 28th 2011 | PARIS | from the print edition

A GIANT naked male torso towers over the lower end of the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. Or, rather, a black-and-white photograph of a male model’s glistening muscles is draped across the four-storey façade of a soon-to-open Abercrombie & Fitch store. The unveiling next month of the first French outlet for the American retailer, renowned for improbably toned, half-dressed sales assistants and hooded sweatshirts, will delight teenagers, bemuse parents—and confirm that France’s best-known avenue has gone global.

When the first majestic lines of trees were planted in the 17th century by André Le Nôtre, Louis XIV’s landscape architect, the Champs-Elysées was a shady walk. It has long since been built up and turned over to shops, cafés and offices. But the avenue still has special meaning, both as an embodiment of French elegance and as a stage for displays of national pride and military might. Unlike London’s Bond Street or New York’s Fifth Avenue, the Champs-Elysées is where soldiers march, tanks roll and planes fly past in the annual Bastille Day parade every July 14th.

These days, though, it is getting hard to find much that is French on the Champs-Elysées, besides a few cinemas, car showrooms and luxury brands. International chains such as H&M (Swedish) and Tommy Hilfiger (American) have opened big stores, joining other foreign implants like Zara (Spanish), Virgin Megastore (British), Disney, McDonald’s and Gap (all American). Even Britain’s Marks & Spencer, which quit Paris a decade ago, is coming back soon, bravely hoping to sell women’s clothes and English sandwiches on the Champs-Elysées.

Plenty of Parisians are dismayed. Earlier this year, owing to soaring rents that make the Champs-Elysées the world’s fourth most expensive shopping street, according to Jones Lang LaSalle, a property firm, the post office closed its doors. “It will no longer be anything but a clothing street,” sniffed Lyne Cohen-Solal, a Paris councillor. A few years ago the town hall unsuccessfully appealed to the courts to block H&M’s arrival. “The Champs-Elysées is mythical,” declared François Lebel, mayor of the local borough. “The image of France is at stake.”

Like their politicians, the French always sound defiantly anti-globalisation. In polls they are far more hostile to free markets than Germans, Chinese or Russians. Yet when it comes to buying or eating foreign stuff, they are as enthusiastic. France is one of the most profitable markets for McDonald’s. Judging by the dress code of French teenagers, there will be long queues outside Abercrombie & Fitch—though whether to buy the hooded tops or to eye up the sales staff may be another question.

France to eliminate tax cap, reform wealth tax

France is unfortunately known for its high taxes. One of the recent fiscal measures, le bouclier fiscal or the tax cap (a.k.a. tax shield) limited all direct income taxes to 50% no matter the income bracket. I wrote about this recently on Bonjour Paris. Those who defended it said it lightened the load of taxes, but those opposed to it reckoned it protected the wealthy while not contributing to reducing the deficit and debt.

Recent debate lead up to today’s decision, announced today by Prime Minister François Fillon, to end the policy. (However, some sort of tax cap will remain in place, at an unspecified percentage, for the less well-off, which make up 52% of the beneficiaries). You can see the French article from Le Point at the link above, and the video from BFM TV below.

Below the video, excerpts from this Wall Street Journal article. Next on the agenda: reforming or abolishing the wealth tax (see more in WSJ and Bonjour Paris articles as well as a detailed report by Le Figaro), which could help as many as 300,000 households pay less tax.

What are your thoughts on these developments?

EUROPE BUSINESS NEWSMARCH 3, 2011, 7:38 A.M. ET
French Prime Minister Says Tax Shield to be Abolished

By WILLIAM HOROBIN

PARIS—French Prime Minister François Fillon Thursday confirmed the government intends to abolish a tax shield that has become a controversial hallmark of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency.

Mr. Sarkozy decreased the threshold of the tax shield shortly after coming to power in 2007 so that no taxpayer pays more than half their income in taxes. But his ratings have hit record lows and the tax shield has become a thorn in his side as many voters see it as a measure benefiting the wealthy few.

“We have to face up to reality: the tax shield has been misunderstood, and the crisis has probably made our citizens more sensitive to some of its effects,” Mr. Fillon told a conference, organized to discuss the reform of property and capital taxes that Mr. Sarkozy has promised for the first half of 2011.

The tax shield was designed in part to limit the impact of France’s wealth tax, which Mr. Sarkozy also intends to reform before the presidential elections in May 2012.

The government says it will either do away with the wealth tax completely or significantly modify it. Mr. Fillon said Thursday said the reform will free 300,000 households from the wealth tax.

Yet the government is insisting the reform must have a neutral impact on public finances at a time when France is fighting to rein in deficits. If the wealth tax and the tax shield are abolished, the government will need around €3.2 billion ($4.44 billion) to make up the shortfall.

“We won’t finance this reform with debt. Balancing the budget will be strictly respected,” Mr. Fillon said.

He also ruled out a variety of options that have been suggested in recent months. The government will not tax gains on the sale of main residences, will not reverse its reduction of inheritance tax, and will not introduce an additional tax bracket, Mr. Fillon said.

Mr. Fillon also said the reform of capital and property tax is one of the reforms necessary for greater tax convergence in the euro zone.

European leaders are negotiating a competitiveness pact for members of the euro zone. Some countries have balked at Franco-German proposals that they fear would compromise their sovereignty in sensitive areas like pensions and salaries.

Mr. Fillon said France and Germany should aim to harmonize corporate taxes, starting with the base of these taxes before looking at the rates.

“Creating prosperity through global trade” Paris event Jan. 25

Power Networking is organizing a great event Tuesday January 25 at 7pm at Le Secret Paris (16 Avenue de Friedland 75008)

It is a talk by Daniel E. Harris (Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs – Embassy of the United States of America). You can register and find more information at this website.

This promises to be a very interesting event and opportunity to hear a top US official while networking and learning more about business.

More details below. Happy Networking!

POWER NETWORKING PRESENTS:

“CREATING PROSPERITY THROUGH GLOBAL TRADE”
Daniel E. Harris, Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs – Embassy of the United States of America

TUESDAY, JANUARY 25, 2011 – 7:00PM

Location: Le Secret Paris, 16 Avenue de Friedland, 75008 Paris (01.53.53.02.02): MAP

REGISTRATION: €40 (€20 for members)

BUSINESS NETWORKING RECEPTION – Cocktails and Amuse Bouche will be served.

As Senior commercial Officer, Daniel Harris serves as the chief of the Commercial Section and the senior representative of the U.S. Department of Commerce in France. Learn how the U.S. Commercial Service can help you:

-do business in France
-increase your sales to new global markets
-get introduced to qualified buyers and distributors

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