Deliveries: These Start-ups That Want to Fight Uber Eats in Small Town Centers

“Small is beautiful”. For Enzo Chagny, founder of Lyveat, a home delivery site, villages and small towns are blessed bread. Its 3,500 couriers roam the streets of Oyonnax (Ain) – the birthplace of its start-up -, Amberieu-en-Bugey, near Lyon, Fuveau, near Aix-en-Provence…. In all, 160 municipalities, whose population varies between 10,000 and 25,000 inhabitants, without forgetting the surrounding villages.

The young entrepreneur who started in 2019 developed a business model Ad hoc. “Only the technological tool is similar to Uber Eats. Otherwise, everything is adapted to journeys of up to 30 km by scooter, car or electric bicycle. Each courier receives 100% of the delivery costs, that is, 30 to 40 euros per essential conditions to retain them. The company lives off the 25% of commissions charged to shopkeepers and restaurant owners”, he explains.

Despite the low margins, Lyveat keeps the road thanks to negligible communication expenses compared to those of the ogres of the fast trade, like Getir or Gorillas, and good family management. Lyveat is no exception. Forever, specialists at farmer’s stores and delis, or even Ollca – an anagram for location – are also developing online sales of provincial versions.

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Even more ambitious, Place du Marché, owned by the Bahadourian brothers, shareholders of the Grand Frais brand, supplies 35,000 municipalities, including the Breton islands, from Belle-Ile to Groix. Brieuc Fruchon, president of the site, weaves a tight net: “In the fall, we will unveil collection points at 600 multi-service cafes in small towns. We are working with the SOS group, a leader in social entrepreneurship, which intends to relaunch activity in these territories .”

A response to growing customer demand

Indeed, these regional steps come at the right time. They account for up to 10% of revenue from neighborhood stores, which struggle to invest in digital. Chefs capable, like Damien Richardot, founder of the cheese-restaurant Monbleu, of developing their own commercial website and partnering with a platform remain the exceptions. Furthermore, these mini markets respond to a growing demand from customers accustomed from confinement to ordering on the Net. As for digital refractories, some players such as Marketplace offer telephone service.

In their own way, these companies are reviving dormant urban centers. According to the Instituto da Cidade e do Comércio, the vacancy rate of stores this year reached 11.2% in cities with more than 10 thousand inhabitants. And the situation could get even worse. Inflation will likely drive shoppers to leave stores to hunt for low prices in supermarkets and hard discount. In the second quarter of this year, the number of failures in the food retail business increased by 51% over the previous period. According to Thierry Millon, Director of Altarès Studies, “Companies created just before the Covid-19 epidemic are the most vulnerable. As a result, failures are expected to follow this pace at least until spring 2023.”

Aware of the socio-economic risks, the State and local authorities thus welcome investors in the food Technology with open arms. “Within the scope of the trade support plan, the Banque des Territoires subsidized around 20,000 euros around 400 municipalities of the Action heart of cities and Small towns of tomorrow programs, decided to create a commercial platform shared mainly with private agents, specifies Marie Aboulker, territorial specialist for the Heart of the City Plan Action, at the Banque des Territoires (Caisse de dépôts).The results of this support, which ended in June 2021, are quite positive: on average, whenever a technological solution is available, 45% of merchants join.”

Due to its presence in the most remote corners of France, La Poste plays a leading role, through the shopping site Ma ville mon, which allows you to quickly open an online store. On the occasion, the public group, which already owns the Stuart delivery company, takes tickets in promising start-ups. This is particularly the case for Epicery, co-founded by Edouard Morhange in 2016, and now co-owned by Geopost, a subsidiary specializing in express deliveries. “We favor a tricolor shareholder, specifies the entrepreneur, capable of supporting the establishment in about thirty medium-sized cities by 2025.”

Competition with Uber Eats is getting tougher

Undoubtedly, the conquest of France is progressing, in order to counteract Uber Eats, already present in 330 municipalities. Leaving Paris in 2016, the American sprinter claims to “cover 70% of the population”. First race offered, promotions in series, optimization of tours… The competition is increasingly fierce. Faced with these blows, Enzo Chagny resists: “In the event of a duel, as in Pierrelatte and Pontarlier, we win the game for several reasons: Lyveat is dedicated to training artisans in the subtleties of the application, retains its employees and offers telephone support.

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Who will be the champion of proximity? In addition to national coverage, Enzo Chagny and his tricolor alter egos must diversify their offer with labeled organic products, ready meals, dietary supplements, cosmetics… to become profitable. Pushed to the wheel by on-demand couriers, e-commerce in the countryside is advancing.


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