Belgian supermarket chain Colruyt thinks it has finally found the winning formula to become successful in France. The retailer is trying to do so as a local convenience store, without the lowest price guarantee. "Retail is about details. What works in one country, is not necessarily appreciated in another."
No more copies
In the French Colruyt stores, there is background music playing - unlike in its Belgian counterparts. The freezer units have transparent lids, and the bakery is prominent; meat is sold at a counter and at the tills, the customers put their products on a 'regular' conveyor belt. With their 750 to 1,000 sqm, the stores are significantly smaller than those in Belgium. And above all: they do not guarantee the lowest price. The French Colruyt stores are no longer copies of the original.
"Retail is about details. What works in one country, is not necessarily appreciated in another", operations manager Marc Hofman told Belgian newspaper De Tijd on a visit to a French store. "It is a mistake many supermarket chains make when they move to a new country. In a large country like France, it is even necessary to give supermarkets different accents per region. If we open shops in Alsace soon, we have to put products from the surrounding area on the shelves there too."
Increasing expansion rate
It seems to be working: French stores grew by 7.5 % last year. They are taking customers from the hypermarkets, a trend that started in the coronavirus crisis, but still continues now that the situation has returned to normal. Local stores are gaining in popularity, and Colruyt wants to follow this trend in France. Therefore, the retailer is going to increase the expansion rate. This year and the next, Colruyt will add five new stores each year, and after that, even eight to ten per year.
"We want to have 170 to 180 French stores in ten years", says Hofman. Currently, there are 88. This year, the discounter will open its first supermarket in Alsace: for the time being, the focus will remain on the northeast and east of France. A few months ago, Colruyt therefore sold three stores in the Paris area to Carrefour - not because they were running at a loss, but because they were too far from the distribution centres.