The French retail sector has responded to claims by medical professionals that they are 'profiteering' through the sale of protective masks, while those in the medical profession are short of equipment.
Several professional medical groups published a statement at the end of last week, Le Figaro reported, criticising retailers for advertising the fact that '100 million masks here, 50 million there' would be going on sale to the general public from this week.
The groups also claimed that retailers were maintaining a 'secret stock' of masks during the crisis, an accusation that was slammed by France's Fédération du Commerce et de la Distribution.
In a statement, the FCD said, "Retail chains are not, and never have been, in charge of the purchase and supply of masks for caregivers. Attributing to them supply difficulties is therefore false and dishonest."
It added that retailers were not, until recently, permitted to sell masks to the general public, and that this directive was indeed given by the state.
"There are no hidden stocks," it added. "The figures announced by the brands relate to the orders placed, which will only be delivered very gradually, with faster availability of single-use masks than reusable fabric masks."
In addition, it added that all masks are to be sold at cost price, or with minimum margin, with retailers eager to participate "in a public service mission [...], as they have done since the beginning of the crisis, by ensuring the food supply of the French."
French health minister Olivier Véran has also spoken out on the issue, saying that there is "no stock of hidden masks" being retained by French retailers.
Last week, Intermarché announced that it would be putting 30 million masks on sale from today across its stores, including those under the Netto brand, with as many as 250 million masks set to be available by 19 May.
Following the statements by medical professionals, the retailer issued a statement of its own at the weekend, seeking to make distinction between what quantities it has ordered and what is currently in stock.
'The Intermarché and Netto brands wish to reiterate their desire to cooperate fully with the medical professions, aware of the essential role they play in the fight against the pandemic,' it said, as reported by LSA.
'Intermarché and Netto will provide professional organisations, which have been unable to provide masks to the French population, with their assistance in sourcing and purchasing. The two brands are at their disposal, waiting for them to contact them.'
Elsewhere, Carrefour has partnered with the ‘Masque Solidaire’ (charity mask) campaign, which helps fabric providers and volunteer fashion designers to join up with distribution networks to provide people with protective masks at no cost.
Carrefour has said that its stores will function as pick-up and drop-off points for supplies.
Individuals and fashion companies can donate appropriate pieces of fabric to be used to make the masks. This fabric is then sent to volunteer fashion designers, who manufacture masks in accordance with AFNOR Spec’s specifications.
Masks are then distributed to people who have requested them by registering on the website, with priority given to vulnerable groups.
More information about the campaign is available at www.masquesolidaire.fr, where parties involved in the scheme can make contact with one another.
© 2020 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine.