It was May 20.
Present in France since 2012, the non-food discount chain Action opened its 600th store, not on the outskirts of a big city, but in Paris, on Boulevard MacDonald (19th century).
A first, greeted by a massive influx of customers to its shelves from the opening.
At the beginning of June, the furniture brand Alinea in turn inaugurated a store in Paris, in the very chic Saint-Germain-des-Prés (6th district), while the giant Ikea, which already had a storefront in the capital, opened a new "point of advice" in the heart of Toulouse (Haute-Garonne).
Action, Ikea, Alinea, but also But, Conforama, King Jouet, Boulanger, Leroy Merlin or even Gifi… Some started several years ago with the arrival in the city center of large brands traditionally located on the edge of cities. 'has been accelerating lately. A strategic shift, which responds to several societal evolutions. Of course, the outskirts still have a bright future ahead of them, "especially since people live there", recalls Cédric Ducrocq, president of Dia-Mart Consulting. But the breathlessness is obvious. "The time when customers came by car, parked in free parking lots, and strolled through department stores where we sold everything, clearly has lead in the wing", analyzes the CEO of Easy Cash ( sale of second-hand items), Jérôme Taufflieb, who has just inaugurated Everso,a new, more chic concept, in Bordeaux (Gironde), Paris, and soon Nice (Alpes-Maritimes). Especially since, at the same time, old-fashioned hypermarkets are less successful, weighed down, in particular, by the boom in e-commerce. However, it is these hypermarkets that attract customers to suburban shopping centers, where the vacancy rate has increased sharply.
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But this is not the main explanation for this urban migration: "when a brand settles in Paris, it targets 2 million Parisians, who hardly ever go to the suburbs, except to buy furniture", underlines Cédric Ducrocq. Emma Recco, director of business development and strategy for Ikea France, says nothing else: “by setting up an Ikea City place de la Madeleine (8th arrondissement) in May 2019, we had an accessibility objective: bring us closer to the greatest number. "Bet won while waiting for the Ikea decoration, rue de Rivoli, which will open at the end of June:" we will reach 1.5 million people, who are less than 30 minutes by public transport ", underlines Emma Recco. “In Paris, the potential traffic is phenomenal,possibly five times higher than that of the Actions located outside the cities ”, confirms Wouter de Backer, the general manager of the low-cost brand, who also underlines another major interest for Action:“ Investing in Paris, in terms branding is priceless. "
A more affluent urban clientele
Targeting urban centers - in addition to the outskirts, therefore - implies, on the other hand, adapting the initial economic model. “First, it is much less easy to find large buildings, with accessibility, not only for customers, but also for the trucks that come every day,” recalls Wouter de Becker, who finally found the rare pearl in Eastern Paris. Finding accessible land sometimes requires being imaginative, as shown in the case of Monmarché.fr - which sells Grand Frais fresh products online -: failing to be able to establish itself in the capital, the brand has made the choice to set up its so-called “workshop” warehouses in former car parks, in order to deliver as quickly as possible to customers who have ordered on the Internet. Another evolution of the model: the target clientele is not the same.“While at Action, traditionally, customers need low prices, in Paris we are expanding our clientele to those who like to find good deals,” explains Wouter de Becker.
At Everso too, consumers have changed. “We have many more so-called upper social classes, as well as urban youth,” says Jérôme Taufflieb. Unsurprisingly in this context, the products sold are moving upmarket. At Everso, luxury items (jewelry, branded handbags) now take precedence over high-tech products or video games. “We focus on products with high added value, in order to amortize the rental value of our stores,” explains Jérôme Taufflieb. At Ikea, small decorative items, or advice for creating a kitchen, replace bulky furniture stocks.
One last question remains: as they evolve, do these models remain profitable, especially for brands known for their low prices? "The footfall that we are gaining, as well as the purchasing power of our new customers, gives us a profitability that is at least the same as that of our outlying stores," concludes Wouter de Becker.