"Tomorrow, the Euro"
9 shoppers out of 10 described the experiment as "instructive"
From 14 to 26 Oct 1996, more than 7 million consumers discovered the euro
in 500 Leclerc supermarkets in France.
An opinion poll of 1768 customers from 18 to 23 October in 10 centres showed:
53% valued learning about the euro;
78% hoped it would be tried again;
75% were curious about the euro, but
51% had doubts about conditions being good for its implementation.
The principal block is psychological. The consumer knows the new currency
will cause upset, but they are prepared to make an effort to change if they
see benefits. The success of the euro depends on more motivation of consumers
and more public debate.
In partnership with the European Commission, the Leclerc chain mounted an
awareness campaign: 15,000 posters, 650 radio spots, information in all branches,
10,000 employees involved, 8 million educational brochures, 1.5 million euro
facsimile coins produced by the Paris Mint, and 200 current products were
labelled with both Franc and euro prices.
As well as raising awareness, other objectives were to analyse holdups by
category of consumer and market area, test communications methods, and set
up a planning framework for the next five years. Above all, to draw attention
to the weak level of knowledge in the public at large.
1. Consumer reactions
The objectives were well understood.
75% of the consumers realised it was an educational exercise.
1.2 More than 87% valued the operation as "instructive" 60% even
"amusing", 53% valued the practical experience.
1.3 It was a good idea
Even though 20% realised it had a commercial aspect, 76% thought it
a good idea and that the Leclerc centres had a leadership role.
1.4 An opportune initiative
58% thought it useful to have this type of information and that this
operation should be more widespread. 78% wished to repeat the experiment.
1.5 It was an opportunity to debate the euro.
Of the 31% of the customers who discussed the operation with their parents
and friends, 69% felt better able to debate the single currency.
1.6 A well received experience
96% did not think themselves inconvenienced in their shopping despite
the unaccustomed surplus of information.
2 - Customer feelings about the currency change.
2.1 In a previous survey, only 27% of French people knew the name of the
currency as "euro". The rest of this section refers to the current survey.
2.2 Only 16% of consumers knew the date of public arrival of the euro.
Paradoxically, 73% thought that it would be in circulation before 2000.
2.3 Asked to prioritise their concerns on the introduction of the euro, they
16% : Technical difficulties
12% : Will the euro be worth the same in all countries?
12% : Am I going to lose by it?
9% : How will old people cope with it?
42% acknowledged that they had not considered those questions before.
That does not mean the people are indifferent, rather to a shortage of
information about the euro. 81% of the clients said they were interested
in E. Leclerc's euro operation.
2.4 57% were interested in the double price labelling, in francs and euro.
71% said they were not surprised, but nevertheless found this labelling
instructive and useful. 24% found it complicated.
It was the change in the size of numbers which challenged the customers.
(There are about 6.5FF to the euro, so a price of 10F becomes about 1.5 euro).
24% were under the impression that the euro price was cheaper than the franc
price. Only 44% had the impression that the conversion did not change the
prices. (Of course, they had not yet been paid in euros either.)
3. Customers' feelings on the euro.
44% of the customers had entrenched opinions: 27% euro-enthusiasts, 17% hostile.
But this hides more complex opinions. 79% expressed caution. Asked to expand
on that, 36% expressed fears, 51% doubts, and 19% indifference.
Older people showed most hostility to the euro: 26.6% of those aged 70 and
over, compared to 17% of all. The young were most enthusiastic:
42.4% enthusiastic in the 15-19 year olds compared to 27% generally. 70%
of the young expressed no fears.
The entrenched views may represent internal political debate rather than
a true consideration of the problems of implementing the euro. Of the 78%
who would like to repeat the Leclerc experiment, 65.7% of the "euro-hostile"
had the same wish.
4. Lessons of this first national experiment.
The degree of knowledge and motivation varies with market segment and
socio-economic status. Border areas, used to currency variations, had no
difficulty with conversion problems. In the south-west, many Spanish customers
visited to purchase souvenir coins of the euro and half-euro.
Farmers and workers expressed most need for information and fears. More than
80% asked for more awareness operations and practical experiences.
Children and students were most enthusiastic. Many groups studied the euro
in the shops and "played shop" with it. "For the children" was the most common
excuse given by parents for retaining the euro coins put into circulation.
A longer transition period?
The findings showed the difficulty of reading prices when the orders of magnitude
are divided by 6.45. Before this experiment, consumers had asked for as short
a transition period as possible. But after facing a concrete example, 86%
estimated that at least 6 months of double price labelling would be needed,
and 47% thought even that too short.
Double labelling is difficult and costly for business. The experience of
double labelling of only 200 products for 15 days was hard to manage and
needed special teams formed to eliminate all sources of error. Leclerc now
confirm that during the 6 month transition period there would be a considerable
increase in Information Technology costs for new software.
Introduction of the euro is a heavy demand on the staff who deal with the
Even after training, cashiers had difficulty in answering the questions and
fears of customers. They felt they had enough to do with their own job handling
the euro without taking on educational tasks that properly fall to public
bodies or banks.
Business cannot succeed to introduce a single currency without the understanding
and cooperation of consumers. This needs to be prepared now for 2002.
CONDITIONS FOR SUCCESS:
a) Involve consumers. At present, governments and eurocrats are targeting
business because of the 1999 deadline. Leclerc now believe this debate completely
useless without the involvement of customers.
b) Clear the doubt about the commitment of decision makers. A common opinion
among staff and consumers is "why worry about the euro when even well-known
personalities have doubts about it?"
c) Give consumers reasons to make the effort to adapt. Given the low level
of public information, people are more afraid of the political impact of
the euro than the specific everyday problems. Public controversy attributes
to the euro ( and Europe) the ills which the public suffer: tax increases,
cutbacks, unemployment, etc.
If political debate is not to impede the development of practical measures
to introduce the euro, it will be necessary to stop making a scapegoat of
the euro and publicise concrete advantages for the consumer.
Press Contact: Information et Enterprise
Sylvie Delhaye / Laurent Reynes Tel +33 1 49 29 12 12 Fax +33 1 48 06 55