[Dossier] Green commerce: distributors in full reinvention – Retail Strategy > Retail

Announced in mid-July amid a heat wave, the “unprecedented” energy sobriety plan that the biggest food retail brands will apply together from October 15 is a symbol of the sector’s ability to weather crises and adopt behaviors. responsible. The fight against the economic rise in the price of electricity will undoubtedly generate new reflexes with retailers, in line with the solutions already underway to reduce their energy consumption by 40% by 2030, as stipulated in the Moose law.. Closing of furniture in fresh departments, which began ten years ago, is now commonplace.

Food distribution has long struggled with waste with donations of unsold items to associations, short-term product promotions, zero waste baskets, etc. Since 2018, thanks to partnerships with Too Good To Go, 4 million basic baskets have escaped waste at Casino group stores and 5 million at Carrefour, which also saves 3 million eggs a year by selling in bulk at reduced prices. became unfit for sale… “In the beginning, the public was hesitant to opt for these products. Today, the consumer sees an opportunity to save and consume new products to diversify food or cook differently”, notes Bertrand Swiderski, CSR director at Carrefour.

Concerned about the impact of their consumption, 72% of French people have changed their habits, according to Greenflex’s 2021 responsible consumption barometer. Last year, sales of organic food products dropped 0.5% – the first in eight years – but more than nine out of ten people consumed organic products and even every day to 15%, notes the organic agency. These more demanding consumers and legislative changes are transforming the retail supply and business. Offering certain fruits and vegetables without trays or plastic packaging, as stipulated by the Anti-Waste Act for a Circular Economy (AGEC), is not without consequences. In cardboard packaging, these products are less visible to the customer. In bulk, they last less time, being necessary to assemble shorter and more frequent supply circuits…

Bulk development, deposit return

Relevant to reduce packaging and adjust consumption, bulk leads retailers to be more attentive to the hygiene conditions of products and shelves. However, consumers, who according to YouGov are 43%, are expected to buy unpackaged products at least once a month. 63% would like to find the big brands that usually buy packaged in bulk. Many are reluctant to commit to this as most do not allow them to fully deploy their image and marketing pitch. In the device designed by the Shopper Marketing Globe agency during the launch of Heineken’s Gallia beer at Monoprix, the ambassadors explained the approach, conveyed the brand’s values ​​and helped customers in the new service ritual.

Read too: The French are less attracted to the bulk market than their European neighbors

55% of French people buy in bulk to reduce packaging waste, 50% to limit waste and 32% to limit costs (32%). 26% have never purchased one. YouGov, November 2021

The bulk system launched by Carrefour at the end of June 2022 reconciles visibility and commitment. The brand also encourages its customers to adopt the warehouse, which is slowly making a comeback despite high transport costs. It is at the heart of Biocoop’s zero waste strategy, which aims to achieve 50% of products sold without single-use packaging, in refillable or reusable packaging by 2025. The AGEC law has set a deposit target of 5% for reuse in 2023 and 10% in 2027.

Second hand, not second zone

The circular economy is gaining ground in physical and online commerce. Auchan, which sold 530,000 second-hand items through its partner Patatam (now Rediv), in May 2022 installed a first second-hand “shop in shop” in a Pas-de-Calais store with Easy Cash, a specialist in buying and selling second-hand and refurbished products. Cyrillus clothes feature a specific label encouraging product recycling in stores or resale on the Second History of the Brand website. Over the past three years, Kiabi has hybridized its model between first- and second-hand products, offered in corners or parts of store shelves and on the multi-brand website Second Hand by Kiabi, with a bonus voucher as a key.

+51% to the number of ready-to-wear purchases on second-hand websites in 2021 (+140% vs 2019) Source: Natixis Payment Observatory.

“Customers practice this hybridization between new and used. We make life easier for families and we also encourage salespeople to build mini-ranges to meet the expectations of people who have the same tastes”, explains Estelle Urbain, retail leader of the brand’s future. However, there is no doubt making it a second-rate offer! “It’s a complementary proposition with quality products and the same level of first-hand service for refund or exchange”she says. By the end of 2022, Kiabi will have assembled 120 second-hand corners and expects all its stores to benefit from them in 2023, mainly because the first results are satisfactory. The brand has federated a community of 200,000 members on its platform and aims to earn 3 million euros in France in its corners. It is interested in other new modes of consumption, such as renting clothes, which is not very obvious in its products. “A test on maternity clothes got high satisfaction”however, notes Estelle Urbain.


The Climate and Resilience Law (2019) requires stores with more than 400 m² to dedicate, by 2030, 20% of the sales area of ​​consumer products to products presented without primary packaging. The Anti-Waste Act for a Circular Economy (2020) sets a target of 20% reduction in single-use plastic packaging by the end of 2025, at least half of which through reuse and reuse.

Prospects in the era of the “Oui Pub”

The marketing aspect is also undergoing a complete transformation, confirms Jérémy Dahan, president of the Globe Groupe: “Some brands started to be very careful with the supply of their means of communication. We encourage them to develop the point of sale experience, paying attention to the equipment used”. For example with the “Globe Podiums”, rented stands, reusable and customizable thanks to magnetic stickers. “Five years ago, each booth went to the trash when the animation was over. There, we only threw away the upper part. The brand communicates 100% with a product that is 90% reusable“, details.

In terms of advertising media, the paper prospectus is clearly in the firing line. If several brands have scaled back their distribution, the switch to digital should be done carefully, as the memory footprint is more fragile on digital. “All tests on the discontinuation of the catalog showed an immediate drop in revenue”recalls Rodolphe Bonnasse, CEO of Aristid, specialist in digital transformation of retail communication. A customer who spends nearly two minutes leafing through a 12- to 48-page paper flyer will spend the same amount of time browsing a digital catalog but will stop at the 7th page.. “He won’t see high-appeal shelf offers that weigh heavily in the basket. Still, according to Nielsen, a consumer who activates commercial promotions earns an average of €141 per year and up to €253 for “, he watches. A strong argument when purchasing power becomes central again! Carrefour discontinued the unsolicited prospectus, but sends it by mail home or in digital version via SMS or WhatsApp to customers who request it, with catalogs remaining available in stores.

Read too: [Reportage] Picard expands with its “Welcome to the kitchen” concept

from 1er From September 2022 to June 2025, the Oui Pub system provided for by the Climate and Resilience law will be tested in 15 voluntary municipalities or intermunicipalities, representing 3.6% of the population and 2.5 million mailboxes. For both direct distributors and retailers, this test with a sticker that designates the boxes that accept brochures is a big leap into the unknown: “In areas where communities play the game to present the devices, like Nancy Métropole, we reassure brands. We also have our share of work to do.”, recognizes Cécile Aligon Dardé, Dga Transformation, Sustainable Development and Communication at Mediapost. The subsidiary of Le Groupe La Poste, whose 316 employees are directly impacted, distributed at the end of August a leaflet with a sticker to remind them of the advantages of the prospectus. “In the Netherlands, which implemented a slightly more complex system in 2018, the adoption rate is 15% in Amsterdam, 35% in medium-sized cities and 45-50% in rural areas. first weeks”she believes.

The receipt destination, which should disappear by default starting in 2023, may be more disputed. More systematic but still offered, it remains popular in hypermarkets for checking groceries but less in demand in supermarkets for emergency purchases. Consumer protection associations are firmly opposed to its disappearance by default. Before burying it, the signs would no doubt benefit from streamlining ticket duration to combine customer satisfaction and eco-friendly gesture.

“In our new bulk system, brands are very visible” Bertrand Swiderski, CSR Director at Carrefour

Two years ago, Carrefour noticed that the number of customers using its bulk offers has stopped increasing. “Changing a new course required reinventing the experience en masse, identifying and erasing irritants”, notes Bertrand Swiderski, its CSR director. A competition for the best ideas made it possible to implement a new solution tested since June 2022 in stores in Montesson and Voisins-le-Bretonneux with cardboard boxes of products bound in bulk and recycled once empty. Three main irritants were pointed out: the price with products up to 20% cheaper, the choice based only on the great national brands (Michel et Augustin, Dr. Oetker, Taureau Ailé, M&M’s, etc.) and the practicality, the customer can come with your own container, make your own tare, benefit from a QR Code for product traceability… “In this system, brands are very visible. Bulk is complementary to packaged products, installed in the same department. It is as profitable as a traditional department, as performance is measured by the criterion of the complete department”, he continues. Reusable and returnable packaging is another path offered for a year in 20 stores in Ile-de-France with the start-up Loop. Among the references, several Nestlé brands (Ricoré, Nesquik, Chocapic Bio…), offered in metal boxes, or Nutella, Coca-Cola, Evian… “In one year, our three best customers, Superheroes in the Closet, have respectively brought back 462, 443 and 127 returnable packages under the Loop project”, he congratulates himself.

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