Carrefour Looks to Reinvent the Hypermarket
By Tom Ryan
Carrefour is testing a new hypermarket concept as Western Europeans
buy groceries closer to home or head to department and specialty stores for
apparel and beauty products.
"The problem is that clients are not that excited by us," Carrefour
chief executive Lars Olofsson told The Wall Street Journal last
week. "They’re either coming to us less often or shopping at supermarkets."
article noted that traffic has been declining at Western European hypermarkets
over the past several years. Europeans are buying fewer durable goods in general
amid the downturn. But Carrefour also said the hypermarket concept works better
in developing economies like China, Brazil and others in Eastern Europe where
people are buying first homes and apartments. The aging Western Europe population
has a smaller appetite for durables.
The aging population is also a factor, along with rising
female employment, in leading consumers to favor the convenience
of nearby supermarkets over out-of-town hypermarkets, according to the Journal.
Moreover, specialty retailers, such as Darty for electronics or H&M for
apparel are now offering lower prices close to home. Finally, rising gasoline
prices are making consumers hesitant to drive to the distant stores.
"The hypermarket hasn’t changed significantly since Carrefour invented
it 47 years ago, but consumers have," Mr. Olofsson told the Journal.
new prototype, Planet Carrefour, comes after Carrefour surveyed 50,000 shoppers
and potential clients about hypermarkets over the past year. The new concept
is designed to make the stores easier-to-shop but also addresses Europe’s aging
At a pilot store in Ecully, France, one of the most noticeable changes
are more clearly defined zones, such as the "organic area," "fashion
food area," and the "leisure/multimedia area." Transparent
cylinders hang from the ceiling to identify the store’s sections. Slow-selling
products such as bicycles have been removed and the number of DIY items have
The Journal said the expanded beauty department is Carrefour’s
largest, and "the clothing section, with wood floors and pop music piped
in, seems more like a fashion boutique than a grocery store." The prototype
also features expanded aisles, a separate entrance for food versus nonfood
shopping, as well as a sushi bar and free babysitting.
"We’re choosing areas where we think we can be different and unique
for our clients," said Mr. Olofsson. "Seventy percent of the time,
they’re mothers with kids."
Carrefour said it has been "very
encouraged" by the performance of
its two ‘Planet’ banners so far, with apparel sales having increased by 30
percent. The final version will be rolled out in its largest hypermarkets next
Discussion Questions: Do large-format superstores in the U.S. face similar
challenges to Carrefour’s hypermarkets in Europe? What do you think of Carrefour’s
reinvention of the hypermarket?
- Carrefour Tests ‘Planet’ Store Format
in France as It Bids to Boost Sales – Bloomberg
- Carrefour Tries a Booster for Tiring Hypermarkets – The Wall Street