Why Local Traders Are The Heart And Soul of France

Discover their strengths, their challenges, and their innovations through the eyes of Lionel Saugues, vice president of the Fédération Française des Associations de Commerçants.

By Fédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

PralusFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

Passing on the tradition

"My father was not only a very good pastry chef, but above all an artist. He spent a lot of time making sugar masterpieces and passed on to me this passion for pastry". Before becoming one of the great French master chocolatiers, François Pralus grew up in the laboratory of his father, Auguste, who created the "Praluline" in 1955. Even today, this brioche filled with pralines remains the icon of the house. François has since taken over the family business, and in turn works with his two sons.

Dominique BouchaitFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

A stories of legacy 

But his recipe for success is not exclusive to the food industry. From stationery to the clothes we wear, objects of our daily lives imply a real know-how often linked to family heritage or regional traditions. 

WorkshopFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

The heart of the cities

"Imagine a town without shopkeepers: it would have no flavour," says Lionel Saugues, vice-president of the French Federation of Traders' Associations. 

Artisan Joaillier Steve SchamingFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

Craftsmanship across France

From the textile industry of the Vosges to the Pyrenean pastures, from the intellectual tradition of the Parisian cafés to the printing press in Lyon: craftsmen are the heart and soul of France.

Le Marg'Oz 29 by Davy Thiaw-WoayeFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

From Lyon to La Réunion

"Our members are present in all the major cities, but also in medium-sized towns, rural areas and overseas territories, and this local economy is a major part of our national heritage”. Independent shops, farmers' markets, service companies... 

Retouches de couleurs sur une marqueterie boulle époque XVIIe Restauration Atelier MarcuFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

Striving for excellency 

Their activities help to preserve cultural and regional specificities. Many seek excellence through the transmission of an ancestral know-how, often rewarded with prestigious prizes such as the “Mercure d'Or” or the title of “Meilleur Ouvrier de France”. 

TeamFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

Entrepreneur : a French word

Small businesses are sometimes running in families from four or five generations, and their taste for authenticity goes hand in hand with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. If local shops had their own specificities since the Middle Ages, the industrial revolution of the 19th century changed the situation. 

Maison Herrouet 8Fédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

Adapting to an evolving world

With the development of transports facilitating the movement of goods, the Halles Haussmanniennes and Parisian department shops gave a new commercial model to provincial and European cities - Émile Zola staged this transformation a few years later in his novels Le Ventre de Paris (1873) and The Ladies’ Delight (1883). 

Bijouterie DelormeFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

Modern challenges  

More contemporary challenges have followed, to which small shopkeepers have to constantly adapt. In recent decades, shopping centres have weakened the activity of city centres and threatened the appearance of wasteland in rural areas. 

EquipeFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

And contemporary ones

Consumers' expectations are constantly evolving, and sustainable development issues must also be addressed. Finally, digital technology is a new essential asset... which can sometimes turn into a competitor.  

Mary’s Coffee ShopFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

Innovation to last

To ensure their future while preserving traditions, craftsmen are striving to innovate with agro-environmental measures, ethical manufacturing, drive services, online shops, and educational workshops that encourage exchanges with customers. 

VanFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

The strength of relationships

Whatever their sector of activity, many are actively involved within their city. For, beyond their economic function, local shops also fulfil other social and community responsibilities. They play an irreplaceable role as the Covid crisis has shown: they maintain services in rural villages and remote neighbourhoods, and help rebuild links with the elderly. 

Soleil Levant 34 by Lionel SauguesFédération Française des Associations de Commerçants

Thanks to all the merchants ! 

This exhibition wants to pay tribute to these talents through their individual expertise in a series of portraits representing the French cultural heritage. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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