Digital commerce and physical commerce less enemies, more friends

Merchants from the Ardennes analyze the impact of e-commerce on their activities, with the strong idea that both have become partners.

The numbers of e-commerce development, constant and a priori inexorable, make you dizzy. In the first quarter of 2022 in France, with a volume of 32.5 billion euros, the Federation of e-commerce and distance selling (Fevad) announced an increase of 11.8% compared to the first quarter of 2021 Online sales already represent 14.5% of retail, it could reach 20% in 2030.

Covid played an accelerating role in this underlying trend. Some non-core businesses have not recovered, while online sales have literally exploded. In Villers-Semeuse, on the outskirts of Charleville-Mézières, Jérôme Soblet, director of the Cora hypermarket, recalls that he did not wait for the pandemic to diversify his offer. “Of course, during Covid, our movement grew very strongly, between 20 and 30%. And for this year 2022, we are around 4%.

“During Covid, our unit experienced very strong growth”

But we were the first to offer a unit twelve years ago. Since then, we have multiplied delivery channels, with pedestrian walkways, ten collection points on site, home deliveries within an average radius of thirty kilometers, participatory pick-up. For Jérôme Soblet, e-commerce, which accounts for 8% of his store’s turnover and mobilizes a dedicated team of 20 people, is an indisputable advantage.

Complementarity of models

In the city-prefecture of the Ardennes, Aubin Jeanteur is more reserved, even neutral. Owner of the eponymous store in the center of Charleville-Mézières dedicated to fashion, decoration and home, and also president of the CCI des Ardennes, he observes that “all the problems are not just due to the internet”. He thinks in particular of the Camaïeu brand, “which was part of a sector, prêt-à-porter, very agitated”. If e-commerce has conquered the market, he qualifies it as “indispensable”, although in his department store “it is not profitable”. He admits that he does not see “generalities to draw” and prefers to emphasize the complementarity and adaptability of the models. “We are not pure gamers, but during the health crisis, we put up to 15,000 articles online. I also note that pure players like Spartoo have opened physical sites. ” This sign, born in 2006, is now present in around thirty locations in France, with the argument that “human contact and in-store advice remain essential values”. Aside from the fact that e-commerce has disrupted the market, Aubin Jeanteur admits that it is “a tremendous opportunity for point of sale, but that its pace of development should not be too fast for us to support it”.

Expected readjustments

Author of the book “Praise of the store against Amazonization” (Gallimard), sociologist Vincent Chabault, professor at the University Paris Descartes – Sorbonne Paris Cité, professor at Sciences-Po, shows his optimism regarding the future of physical commerce. According to him, two logics emerge.

“Amazon opens convenience stores and buys chain of 400 stores in the United States”

One concerns mass distribution, which is at its peak and whose development will be qualitative, betting on proximity. The other concerns the store connected with the “digital voucher”. Specializing in fashion, culture, handicrafts and other sectors, he would be able to provide advice and customer experience. “A bookseller will legitimize readers’ choices”, argues the specialist, for whom there is no direct opposition between e-commerce and physical commerce. “In addition, Amazon is opening convenience stores and has purchased a network of 400 stores across the United States. 🇧🇷

Digital to rescue tobacconists

The Marnais Alain Sauvage, president of tobacconists in most of Grand Est, welcomes the contribution of e-commerce in his sector. “Tobacco currently represents 50 to 70% of our DNA. Games come next and then, everything that digitization allows to achieve and thanks to which stores do not close. In September alone, around 52,000 Nickel financial accounts were opened with the 6,250 debtors open to this diversification. Likewise, the local payment of daily bills, implemented in July 2020, translates into two million transactions. And recently, multi-service touch terminals are gradually spreading. This tool allows anyone to take out home insurance, buy a train ticket or request a registration document.

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