Making the decision to take the plunge and expand your business overseas is always going to be a difficult one. But deciding on the best place to take that first leap is perhaps the most crucial and difficult choice of all.
Could France be the right place for your company’s expansion plans?
France is the second most populous country in the European Union, after Germany, and the sixth largest economy in the world by nominal GDP according to the latest World Bank datasets from 2016. Basically, there are a lot of people living in France and they have a fair amount of disposable income.
In some ways, doing business in France is very similar to the UK. Indeed, compared to many countries around the world, the differences between the UK and one of our closest geographical neighbours are negligible. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy ride.
A business-friendly environment?
Despite the size and promise of the French economy, there are plenty of factors that seek to hold France back. Reforms that have liberalised markets in western economies like Germany, the UK and the US have failed to occur in France, inhibiting its ability to compete on the national scale.
Historical governments have been reluctant to reform, holding hard to protectionist policies, and being suspicious of, and at times even openly hostile towards, parts of the private sector. France remains a strong player on the global scene, but it’s safe to say a combination of these things has held back its potential.
It could well be for these reasons that French GDP is lower than that of the UK and unemployment is about twice as high, despite the country having more citizens, more land, and higher productivity than us to begin with.
A political revolution
But things do seem to be changing. French business leaders are praising the recent raft of reforms in labour laws as a sign that the country’s attitude to private investment could well be changing. The days of governments referring to finance as ‘the enemy’ are long gone.
The reforms that President Macron proposes are certainly controversial. To hail them as objectively positive would be short-sighted, to say the least. But one thing is for sure – investors are interested in France in ways that they haven’t been for some time.
However successful the reforms end up being, Macron has certainly succeeded in telling the world that France is open for business. And, where investment is concerned, that’s half of the battle won.
The local aspect
The other important thing to remember about French consumers is they’re often sceptical of products and services that don’t look particularly French. The French generally like things that are, well, French, and tend to regard things made in their own country as higher quality to those made elsewhere.
You can’t blame a country for a little self-respect, of course. But that does mean you’re going to have to work a little harder to make your product appeal to the French marketplace than you might in more Anglo-friendly countries like Germany or the Netherlands.
If you’re considering moving into the French market, then on a practical level, language translation services from the team here at Bubbles will ensure that your new target customers not only understand your marketing messages but also identify with them.