French group Carrefour is one of the world's largest retailers, and is generally credited with pioneering the hypermarket concept when it opened its first giant self-service supermarket in 1963 at a crossroads (or carrefour in French) outside Paris. For many years, the global #2 behind America's Walmart, it lost that position to Tesco during 2013, before overtaking its troubled British rival again in 2014. Yet both companies, struggling to offload their weaker international operations, have in turn been surpassed by other food retailers. Although Carrefour has no presence in the US, UK or Germany, it still has significant interests throughout the rest of Europe. However, it has steadily thinned out what was once an extensive presence across Asia and Latin America. The group has been wrestling for years with flat performance in its biggest territory, France. There were signs that Carrefour might finally have begun to resolve these problems in 2006, but modest progress quickly became bogged down at the end of the decade and a turnaround plan launched in 2010 delivered disappointing results. To appease its increasingly restless shareholders, Carrefour spun off its discount chain Dia as an independent company during 2011. It later bought back the Dia outlets in France. Yet that move has not prevented arch-rival Leclerc from overtaking it as France's biggest grocery retailer. The rival had almost 22% local share in 2019 to Carrefour's 20%. Poor performance resulted in a succession of new CEOs between 2008 and 2017 when Alexandre Bompard took over the top job. He has brought greater stability to the business, but growth is still hard to find, especially in France. The group still has an extensive global footprint with 12,111 owned or franchised stores in more than 30 countries as of 2019. Biggest market by far is France with 5,424 hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience stores. Spain and Italy both have more than 1,000 stores apiece. Most stores globally operate under the Carrefour name, apart from around 140 Promocash cash & carry warehouses in France. Brazil is the main exception: supermarket and hypermarket stores are branded as Atacadao. The group's convenience stores generally trade as Carrefour Express or Carrefour City, or sometimes under legacy names including Proxi and 8 a Huit. Net group sales for 2019 were €74.1bn, with net income of €1.3bn. France accounted for almost half of revenues, Brazil for a further 16% and Spain for 12%. The next biggest markets were Italy, China and Belgium, all between €3bn and €5bn. However, Carrefour agreed to quit China too during 2019 with the sale of a majority stake to local retailer Suning.com.
Capsule checked 8th January 2020
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Who are the competitors of Carrefour? In France's fiercely competitive grocery retail sector, Carrefour's traditional rivals are Leclerc (the local leader by market share since 2017, according to Kantar Worldpanel), Intermarché (15% in 2019), Systeme U (11%), Groupe Casino (11%), Auchan (10%),and Lidl (6%). The group has tended to steer clear of direct competition with major international groups such as Walmart, Metro or Tesco in their local markets, although it does compete with those companies in some Asian and Latin American territories. See also Retail Sector index for other companies
Historical profile information for Carrefour
Adbrands Daily Update 18th Jan 2021: "Pas question," said French regulators to Canadian retailer Alimentation Couche-Tard in the wake of reports of a takeover approach to Carrefour. As has so often been the case in the past, the government moved quickly to shut down the potential loss of a local jewel, citing a perceived threat to French jobs and to the country's food security. Couche-Tard's chairman flew to Paris to try to persuade French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, but the response was unequivocal. "My answer is extremely clear," Le Maire told French media. "It's no. A polite but clear and final no."
Adbrands Daily Update 13th Jan 2021: Carrefour entered merger talks with Canadian convenience store giant Alimentation Couche-Tard, owner of Circle K and other brands. Couche-Tard initiated the negotiations with an offer to acquire the French group for €16.1bn. Carrefour is around 25% larger by revenues than its Canadian suitor, but its share price has been in the doldrums for many years. Market cap before the offer was made public was just €12.7bn, compared to $37bn for Couche-Tard. A deal would greatly expand the Canadian group's presence in Europe and deliver a sizeable footprint in Latin America. It would also create the third largest grocery retailer globally behind Walmart and Lidl's owner Schwarz Group. However, analysts were generally cool on the deal, concerned that the two groups' very different store formats and geographical footprint would limit any potential for cost-cutting synergies. Talks are at an early stage and may not result in a deal.
Adbrands Daily Update 21st Jun 2019: "60 Christmasses Spent Together". French supermarket giant Carrefour is celebrating its 60th anniversary with a trip down memory lane into Christmasses past. Marcel Paris has lovingly recreated a few key epochs - the hair, the fashions, the terrible TV - in the history of one particular French family. The whole sequence is anchored by the Dad's terrible traditional mealtime joke, capped off with a sweet and poignant final touch.
Adbrands Daily Update 21st Jun 2019: Host nation France was a late arrival at the Cannes Lions Grand Prix party, only picking up its first top award on Thursday in the Creative Effectiveness category. Publicis-owned Marcel collected the Grand Prix for "Le Marché Interdit", a campaign for Carrefour supermarkets that highlighted the absurdities of EU laws on organic produce. The retailer created dedicated "Black Market" sites within its stores to sell cereals, fruits and vegetables grown from seeds that were not historically included in the EU's official Catalogue of Authorised Species. This lists only around 3% of the seed varieties available, predominantly patent-protected hybrids that have been expensively developed by commercial suppliers. There is nothing wrong with the majority of seeds not included in the catalogue, or with the EU's original desire to ensure food safety. However, explained the judges, "little by little, the agrochemical lobby had the catalogue rules changed so that only hybrid seeds could be eligible. In 1981, they passed a law to prohibit the sale of anything that did not fit into the catalogue. Today, it no longer serves food safety; it serves business. As a result, 90% of farmable varieties have disappeared worldwide in the 20th century, farmers have to depend on pricy hybrids patented by the agrochemical industry, and consumers are deprived of a wide range of superior produces, richer in nutrients, taste, and better for the environment."
Adbrands Weekly Update 5th July 2018: In an unexpected liaison, European supermarket giants Tesco and Carrefour have joined forces in a buying partnership for own-label products, with the aim of lowering costs and raising quality. The partnership will also bulk buy certain not for sale items, such as in-store cleaning products and storage systems. As a result of its specific focus on own-label, the arrangement is being seen as a direct response to the encroachment of discounters Aldi and Lidl, who sell almost exclusively own-label products. Carrefour CEO Alexandre Bompard said the partnership "combines the purchasing expertise of two world leaders, complementary in their geographies, with common strategies. This agreement is a great opportunity to develop our two brands at the service of our customers." The initial term of the partnership will be three years, but it is expected to continue beyond that on a long-term basis.
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