The controversial Russian discount chain Mere is exploring expansion opportunities in the US. A project manager is to open stores in Georgia and Alabama.
Cheaper than Aldi and Lidl
Russian discounter Mere wants to expand into the United States. This is evident from a vacancy reported in the trade journal Winsight Grocery Business. The chain, which is bringing ‘hard’ back to hard discount, is looking for a project manager in the US. He or she should preferably speak Russian and be a specialist in commercial real estate.
The future project manager will have to research locations in the states of Georgia and Alabama, negotiate leases and actually open stores. Mere is likely to focus on Alabama and Georgia because these rural regions currently have many small independent retailers. Mass discounters such as Walmart and Dollar General are on the rise there.
However, Mere promises to be even cheaper than Aldi and Lidl, by selling a limited basic range of products directly from pallets. The European stores, for example, do not offer unpackaged fresh produce, but there are many leftover batches and bulk packs. In its home country of Russia, this concept has earned the retailer – under the name Svetofor – a place in the top ten largest supermarket chains, with some 2,500 stores in Russia, Belarus and Central Asia since its establishment in 2009.
Mere is also expanding strongly outside the US and Russia. The first British branch will open soon and there are also plans for Belgium. However, the Russians are not yet succeeding in putting their money where their mouth is: the Belgian construction looks rather shady and the planned opening in Opwijk does not seem to be coming to fruition for the time being. German growth is also much slower than expected, with only five of the planned 100 stores opened after two years.
The choice for the US is also striking, as Russia’s fellow countryman X5 Retail Group had already made an attempt with the discount formula Okey-Dokey in Florida. The five stores closed after only one year.