Belgian praline producer Leonidas intends to open 150 new stores in France over the next five years, starting with about twenty in the very near future.
Leonidas "wants to achieve a breakthrough in France", CEO Philippe de Selliers told Belgian newspaper De Tijd: his chain currently has 400 stores in France, which is the second most important market for the praline company after Belgium. In the coming weeks, twenty more French branches will open, with Leonidas eventually planning 150 new branches: "Particularly in Paris and in the south, there is room for new shops", the CEO says.
All Leonidas pralines are produced in Belgium, as 'Belgian chocolate' is still a quality brand abroad and the company is quite happy to use that element. It does make it more difficult to export though, especially outside of Europe: "We have more than 120 kinds of pralines, but in far-off countries like Japan, we can only offer a fraction. Pralines must be fresh. We do not freeze them, like some of our competitors. The chocolates that go to Asia are transported by plane, which is very expensive," de Selliers explains. This is one of the reasons why Leonidas is concentrating more on European countries.
"Prices disrupt perception"
Under Leonidas’ strategy, price has always been important: the pralines are significantly cheaper than those of other Belgian brands such as Neuhaus or Godiva. However, this is in no way down to the quality of the ingredients, de Selliers emphasises: "Sometimes, prices disrupt perception. We can charge lower prices because we keep our margins lower than our competitors, and we have the advantage that we work differently with high volumes."
Leonidas was founded in Ghent in 1913 by a Greek immigrant, Leonidas Kestekides, who opened a tearoom where chocolate was also sold. Shares in the company are still in Greek hands today. The chain now has 1,300 stores worldwide, spread over forty countries. Last year, Leonidas achieved a turnover of 98 million euros. The Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom and Romania are the principal foreign markets, in addition to France.