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French giant Carrefour presents ‘transformation’ plans

French supermarket giant Carrefour has launched a new “transformation” plan to revitalise declining  hypermarkets in France.

Carrefour has 247 hypermarkets in France, representing business worth €21 billion and 52% of the country’s hypermarket share. Yet, it has experienced a decline in the popularity and takings of the large-format stores in recent years.

New plans include opening three new types of stores. These will include one “low cost” model, focused on cut-price deals and self-service checkouts; another named “Rebond” will focus on shops that are currently losing money - although further precise details on this have not yet been confirmed.

The third will be a concept called “Next”, which Carrefour says will be “more efficient, unique, and multi-channel”.

Stores are expected to be smaller in size, but “streamline” the client journey, and include a food section and an “expert” section, which will be dedicated to services such as pet care, or beauty.

The company also plans to create more areas designed to fulfil double the number of online orders than is currently possible. Preparation time for dispatching online orders is set to drop by 20-30%, the group said.

Food-wise, it is planning to focus on traditional services more and more, including within the bakery, butcher, and patisserie sections. It is also planning more staff training, and increased focus on apprenticeship training.

Organic food, which is growing by 10% year-on-year, continues to be a priority.

There are already more than 100 organic products available, and the group is planning to make at least five food aisles per store dedicated to organic in coming years - a “shop in a shop” layout that was first successfully trialled at the Chambourcy (Yvelines) hypermarket.

Non-food-wise, other projects include offering parcel pick-up and return services, and a “click and collect” service for online orders.

Many stores will no longer sell jewellery, offer photo development services, or large white goods - and others will see these services become “self-service”, without full-time staff on hand. There are also plans to work with existing providers, such as Darty, to offer more “shop in shop” services.

The group is also continuing to test the idea of franchises, to give more leadership to local business owners, who will operate independently with “more motivation”, the company said. At least ten new franchises will open this year, Carrefour said, with most under the director of previous shop managers.

The extent of the changes - especially the introduction of “self-service” areas, has prompted workers union the CGT to condemn the moves as “catastrophic for workers”.

The union claims that non-food sales make up to two-thirds of the group’s business, and that changing this could lead to job losses.

In response, Carrefour said: “A meeting was held to present the hypermarket transformation plans, and an agreement on employment and skills is being negotiated.”

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