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Retail Therapy

Edited on

07 May 2021
Read time: 2 minutes

Helping local shop owners go digital in Saint Quentin.

Author : Nicolas Gibbe, project manager, Saint-Quentin City

Big compagnies are all investing in the cross-channel transition. Even pure digital players, like
Amazon, are now developing physical shops (57% of French e-shops now sell in physical shops too).
Small shops seem to have more difficulties jumping on the bandwagon and only a small proportion
of them have really embraced the digital
Lack of time, disinterest, no digital skills…the issues are numerous and solutions are still to be
In 2020, 57% of shops owners said that the main issue to their shop’s digitalisation is lack of
time (46% cited cost, 36% the complexity and 32% lack of skills). Covid has shown that being
able to sell online or to organise “click and collect” through a digital solution can be a business
lifesaver. But only 30% of French small companies employed digital tools to weather the lockdown.
Saint Quentin, a French middle-sized city located at a European crossroad (2h from Brussels, 1h30
from Paris) is doing its part by launching an ambitious programme dedicated to supporting local
small retail owners.
A key part of this is “Le Commerce Lab” - a physical shop in the city centre, focused on digital
solutions for shops in the city, providing virtual marketplaces and offering many workshops on
digitalisation. The shop owners are guided through the process of digitalisation and made aware to
the concept of “phygital” - the link between physical shop and digital retail.

Several municipality agents are going to be dedicated to bringing personalised guidance
to understand digital usefulness to shops.
During last lockdown The Commerce Lab manage to organize a digital event instead of a
physical one. Organising the “Salon du Vin” (Vine Event) was a huge challenge for the
Commerce Lab team. For that grand premiere “Salon du Vin” digital event didn’t gather as
much people as the physical event but it creates an interesting momentum around digital

After WWI Saint Quentin had to rebuild its city from ruins; in the late 70s it had to rebuild its
economy as its big industrial companies left for good. The city has always had to create its own
In the latest incarnation, Saint Quentin is leading the local shops along a new path to digitisation.