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As Carrefour’s chief executive, Alexandre Bompard, says the retailer is not planning to exit any further countries, and its country operations in Belgium and Poland expand their offer, we round up news for the retailer.

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France-based Carrefour has signed an agreement to sell an 80% stake in its China-based operations to Suning.com. The deal will see Suning pay Carrefour €620.0m in cash, valuing Carrefour China at an enterprise value of €1.4bn.

Carrefour may exit China completely

The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2019, subject to regulatory approval. Carrefour will retain a 20% stake in the business and two out of seven seats on Carrefour China’s Supervisory Board. However, the agreement allows Carrefour to sell the remaining stake in two years’ time.

Carrefour China has struggled in recent years

Carrefour has been presence in China since 1995, but it has been struggling to grow in recent years amid fierce local competition and the rise of the ecommerce channel more widely. Carrefour has implemented several turnaround plans in recent years, but despite these, it has generated negative like-for-like sales since 2011. At the end of its 2018 financial year, the retailer operated 210 hypermarkets and 24 convenience stores and generated total net sales of about €3.6bn and EBITDA of €66m.

About Suning

Suning is a Chinese electronics retailer and ecommerce player. It operates more than 8,881 stores in more than 700 cities and one of the country’s largest B2C ecommerce platform. Suning said in filing to the Shenzhen stock exchange that “the stake acquisition will allow Suning.com to strengthen its brand, as well as boosting its marketing capabilities, food quality control and supply chain management in the fast-moving sector”.

Where does it leave Carrefour’s agreement with Tencent?

One area not answered by Carrefour’s announcements is where the sale of Carrefour China leaves its existing relationship with Tencent. Announced in Q1 2018, the agreement has been highlighted by Carrefour Group’s chief executive, Alexandre Bompard, as supporting its growth, while the president and chief executive of Carrefour China, Thierry Garnier, has said how China is a specific market that has helped us to learn and to understand the future. With Carrefour potentially exiting China over the course of the next two years, where this leaves its agreements and what it can learn from the country in question.

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Following Carrefour’s AGM, which saw its chief executive, Alexandre Bompard, discuss opportunities for the retailer to play a role in future retail consolidation, it has opened new formats as it looks to drive innovation in the market.

‘Carrefour to benefit from retail consolidation’

As part of the retailer’s AGM, Bompard said that he expects ‘there will be consolidation in the retail sector in coming years’ and that his mission is to ‘make sure that Carrefour is in the winners’ camp’. The statement follows questions about Carrefour’s long-term outlook in countries where it has underperformed recently, such as China and Italy, especially in the latter after its rival Auchan exited the country following the sale of most of its stores to Conad. Bompard was quoted as saying the retailer’s on-going transformation plan ‘could improve the operational situation in each of [its] countries’.

Opens automated store in headquarters…

As it looks to develop its own automated store and associated technological solutions, Carrefour has opened an automated store in its headquarters. The 48 sq. m store will enable it to trial technological solutions like facial recognition, which it has developed as part of a collaboration with China-based Tencent, and registerless shopping as it looks to drive in-store efficiencies. The store uses cameras and sensors to track shoppers’ movements, with their accounts charged automatically with each purchase. The store’s range focuses on a snack-oriented offer of about 1,300 SKUs.

…And its first restaurant in Paris…

Meanwhile, separately, Carrefour has opened its first restaurant, in Paris’ 1st arrondissement, under the Bon appétit banner. The 63 sq. m restaurant stocks salads, sandwiches and other food-to-go and dine-in options, for lunch or dinner, with the most expensive item costing €8.50. In line with its Act for Food initiative, products are created using organic and/or Fairtrade ingredients where possible. The restaurant has seating for 30 people. According to reports, Carrefour is looking to open a further two restaurants by the end of 2019 as part of the on-going trial to target shoppers with new solutions and formats.

…And its Bio format in Belgium

Following a successful roll out in other countries, Carrefour is said to be investigating opportunities to open its specialised Bio format in Belgium. The first store could open by the end of July, in the south of Brussels, with two to three more expected to be added by the end of 2019. The stores will continue Bio’s focus on fresh, organic and natural foods.

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Reuters has reported comments from Carrefour’s blockchain program manager, Emmanuel Delerm, in which he highlights the benefits of blockchain on the sale of products tracked by the technology.

Products tracked by blockchain sell faster

According to the reports, Delerm said the sales of products tracked by blockchain, a list of 20 products that includes meat, milk and fruit, were boosted by the use of the technology. Delerm was quoted as saying: “The pomelo (a citrus fruit) sold faster than the year before due to blockchain. We had a positive impact on the chicken versus the non-blockchain chicken.”.

Technology use ‘building halo effect’

Carrefour announced plans to use the technology in France in Q1 2018 for free-range Carrefour Quality Line Auvergne chickens. It has since extended the number of products it tracks with the technology and expanded its use into several its other countries of operation. Delerm was quoted as saying Carrefour would use blockchain technology in relation to 100 more products in 2019, with a focus on items that shoppers seek reassurance of their provenance, like baby and organic products.

Underlining the positive effect of the technology’s use, Delerm also said: “You are building a halo effect - ‘If I can trust Carrefour with this chicken, I can also trust Carrefour for their apples or cheese.

Initiative resonating with shoppers in China

The blockchain technology enables shoppers to scan a QR code on the product to find out information about it. Carrefour provides shoppers with information about when the product was harvested, where it was produced, when it was packed and how long it took to transport to Europe. Shoppers can see which products do not contain pesticides, genetically modified organisms or antibiotics and so enable them to make informed choices in relation to what they are buying.

Delerm said its use had proved most successful for Carrefour in China, followed by Italy and France. He said that shoppers were spending as long as 90 seconds reading information about the products in question.

For subscribers wanting more information and further examples of where blockchain is being used, see our insight presentation on the topic.

Presentations

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