Created in 1998 in Bordeaux, the online shopping site Cdiscount, now owned almost entirely by the Casino group, has a turnover of around four billion euros. The company’s headquarters are still based in Bordeaux, where around 1,300 employees are concentrated, while around 1,000 logisticians are distributed across the group’s four warehouses in France, which represents a storage area of 500,000 m². Logistics team that doubles from October, to prepare for events like Black Friday, then the Christmas holidays. 20 minutes asked the deputy general manager of Cdiscount, Marie Even.
How do you prepare for an event like Black Friday?
It is a date that marks the beginning of Christmas shopping. We typically have 20 million visitors a month to our site, we expect between 8 and 10 million for Black Friday alone, although it is becoming Black Week for most retail sites in the queue. We have seen very dynamic traffic since last Friday. We have almost 200 people who work constantly to find the best product every day, at the best price, and Black Friday is an event that we prepare months in advance, almost from the beginning of the year, so that we can present the best possible offers.
How is this organized in your warehouses?
In terms of surface, we have more than enough to store products. On the other hand, we are doubling the size of our workforce by the end of the year. They arrive in successive waves from the end of September, beginning of October. Our warehouse in Cestas near Bordeaux, for example, went from 600 to 1,400 logistics operators.
In your warehouses, what solutions do you implement to consume less and waste less, particularly in terms of packaging?
We started initiatives to reduce the carbon impact of logistics eight years ago. We act in transport, packaging, without forgetting the working conditions of our trades. For example, we invested heavily in six 3D packaging machines, which scan the three dimensions of the product to allow the carton to fit as closely as possible. About 85% of our products are optimally packaged, which saves 30% of boxes. By also optimizing the loading of our trucks, which are completely full, we are at the same time reducing the number of trucks on the road by 30%. It’s colossal. Another example, we’ve worked hundreds of times with the start-up Hipli and their reusable packaging. The customer can therefore return the packaging of his product, after having folded it and placed it in a mailbox. So even if it’s plastic bags, it’s still more virtuous than a single box. We are also taking steps to remove packaging from products that do not pose any specific risk. We ask our customers in advance, who accept 98% that their product is not packaged. We are working to expand the list of eligible products.
There is also the issue of last mile delivery, how to reduce its impact?
Indeed, there are problems of noise pollution and air pollution. In large cities, we opted to develop electric fleets. We are experimenting in Lyon with high-volume deliveries, such as washing machines, on cargo bikes, with a start-up called Fends la bise. For our same-day delivery offer, which concerns small products for customers residing in large cities, we use TGVs: the packages are installed under the bar-car, take the train and are collected on arrival in an electric van to be delivered to the customer. I often hear that express delivery is more polluting, this is not necessarily true, it depends on how you deliver. At Cdiscount, the fastest delivery is the least emissive. We were also the first to develop such a large network of collection points, both for small and large products, throughout France, which limits travel. We recently opened up to 200 collection points on rural farms, in partnership with another start-up, Agrikolis. We have one on the Ile de Ré, others in the mountains.
What about drone delivery, which you wanted to try?
With all the delivery deals out there for customers, it’s frankly not a priority today.
Some technology companies are going through a crisis, after the Covid-19 that saw their activity skyrocket. How’s it going by your side?
Covid was a moment of strong mobilization for us, as all stores were closed, leaving only e-commerce for non-food products. We never stopped making deliveries, which allowed us to attract new customers. So, in fact, the post-Covid level of activity dropped due to a recovery effect, but we didn’t lose these new customers. And above all, Covid has accelerated the use of digital.
On the other hand, several sectors are having recruitment difficulties, is this your case?
No, because we maintain our ability to attract, whether for logisticians or engineers, even if the market is really tight. But we are constantly evolving: we have had ten years of classic e-commerce, so in 2011 we decided to open the marketplace, which allows us to have the widest possible offer with 14,000 sellers, offering a total of 80 million products in Our site. At the same time, we went from having 80 computer engineers to nearly 700 today. We went from being a very commercial company in its DNA to a company that is above all technological, without losing our retail culture. That history and the massive investments we’ve made mean we offer an exceptional playground for tech professions. On the other hand, the competition is stronger, as all companies are going through their digital transformation, so the challenge is to remain attractive.