Consumption. Is independent stores the future of retail?

Hypermarkets are no longer entertainment venues. The French aversion to supermarkets seems to be justified. While the majority stick to physical stores for food purchases (62% according to a study conducted by SES-imagotag and the OpinionWay institute in October 2021), consumption patterns are changing. Karine Sanouillet, CSR expert in mass distribution, says in online media Novethic: “There is a lack of love for very large hypermarkets. Gone are the days when walking around the hypermarket was a profession, a hobby. Now consumers want to go fast.”

The end of very large surfaces?

Brands that are aware of this change take the lead. Like Carrefour, which announced that it will remove nearly a hundred stores, 25 of which are hypermarkets, in order to put them in the status of rental management. Very large surfaces, particularly between 14,000 and 19,000 m², are “very damaging”, according to group boss Alexandre Bompard. This is especially true for the Illzach and Mulhouse hypermarkets in Alsace.

For its part, Casino resells a good portion of its hypermarkets to competitors, while Auchan is trying to implement new strategies to attract customers from city centers, with the deployment of crosswalks in 38 cities, mainly five in France. at Bas-Rhin.

The principle is simple: order online from a smartphone or computer and pick up your products at a small outlet of the brand after walking two to three hours. “We want to introduce the breadth of the hypermarket offer to customers who are not used to going to skirts or who are not our customers,” explains Le Figaro Cyril Olivier, Auchan’s digital director.

Among the new forms of commerce that are emerging, a connected store may emerge in the future, with autonomous or even fully automated stores.

Fully automatic warehouses

This is Amazon Go’s ambitious project in the United States and the UK. Thus, the group opened stores without staff and without cashiers. Customers use a mobile app associated with an Amazon account.

Concepts are being tested in France, especially with the Carrefour, Monoprix and Casino groups. The aim is to enable consumers to access the store 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to purchase their daily consumption products.

The system is based on artificial intelligence technology, in particular with a camera system, or a weighing system for the automatic management of product picking and in-store payment.

Autonomous and connected stores

However, the fully automatic shop model is expensive. That’s why some brands are targeting the standalone store, a hybrid version that works like a classic convenience store during the day and in standalone mode outside of normal business hours.

Deployment of such a system can meet the needs in urban and urban environmental areas. The store offers free access to all shelves (except alcohol), customers scan products, all under the supervision of security guards.

snowy model

Interview at Europe 1 for Guillaume Robin from Auchan France: “Mixing digital and traditional physical store is definitely the future of distribution”. In any case, it is the model that seems most profitable for professionals in the industry.

Time will tell whether consumers will be there and whether such a market will meet their expectations in terms of variety of supply, price, safety and efficiency (especially when crowded, for example).

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Eight years to regain pre-crisis level of participation

According to the digital newspaper Novhic, more than half of French shoppers did their hypermarket shopping fifteen years ago, compared to just 41% today. The health crisis has accelerated changes in habits with no long-term consequences for big brands. Indeed, according to a study by the Kantar Institute, it would take about eight years to regain pre-crisis level of participation in supermarkets and hypermarkets. Brands are positioning themselves on local products in short circuits that better meet consumer expectations.

Moreover, modest-sized hypermarkets resist better as they develop in this direction. “If there was a real rejection of hypermarkets, we would have witnessed the explosion of mass grocers, organic brands, Amap. There are new consumer expectations, but there is no seesaw,” analyzes Karine Sanouillet, stating that mass distribution continues to dominate the organic food sector.