Russian discounter Mere eyes Belgium

Mere, the low-end retailer from Russia that is now active in nine countries, has big Western European ambitions and wants to open ten stores in Belgium before the end of the year. Plans for France, the UK, Italy and Austria were also announced earlier.


Saving time and money

Mere announces its Belgian plans on the website "We plan to open 10 supermarkets in Belgium in 2021," says the company, which has its Belgian headquarters in Ixelles under the name Lightkommerz. In recent days, the chain also confirmed expansion plans in the UK and France. In Spain, the first stores have already been opened. So it looks very much as if the price fighter has big Western European ambitions. On its website, Mere appeals to landlords and suppliers to work together. The chain is also looking for an expansion manager.

The retailer wants to be there for people who want to save time and money. Mere guarantees the lowest possible prices thanks to direct cooperation with producers, a strict cost-control policy and minimal margins. "In our store, the customer pays for the goods, not the high-profile brand," says the retailer. The stores look spartan, with a limited range of 1,500 to 2,000 essential products displayed on pallets. Prices are said to be about 20% lower than usual at hard discounters.


Challenger to Aldi and Lidl

This approach makes Mere a challenger to hard discounters Aldi and Lidl, which have positioned themselves somewhat higher in the market in recent years, with an upgraded store image and a larger assortment of fresh products and A-brands. The Russian chain may see opportunities at the low-end of the market.

Mere is by no means a small player. The company claims to be one of the largest discounters on the Eastern European market. In Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the chain operates under the name Svetofor. The retailer has more than 2,000 stores in 9 countries. In 2018, the discounter began a European conquest tour. Under the name Mere, it opened stores in Romania, Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. In Belgium, the company has reportedly been active since last year.

More and more Russian retailers are finding their way to Europe: in 2020, the fast-growing fresh food chain VkusVill opened a store in Amsterdam and at the beginning of this year, Wildberries, Russia's largest e-commerce player, launched in Germany.