After the outcry around the sale of fuel at a loss, the executive is attacking the sale at cost. On Tuesday, the government promised "nearly 120,000 operations" of selling fuel at cost price - that is to say without margin - until the end of the year "in 4000,<> stations", after a meeting with fuel distributors. "Some have already said they are ready to extend beyond" the end of the year, an adviser said after the meeting.
Gasoline will be sold daily at cost price "in the 750 service stations of Leclerc hypermarkets," according to its boss, Michel-Edouard Leclerc. Ditto for Carrefour. Intermarché, Casino and Cora will do the same, but only two weekends a month. Auchan and Système U will sell their fuel at cost price at least one weekend per month. For now, the precise amount of reductions at the pump has not specified and will depend on each distributor. But what can consumers really expect?
The geographical distribution of the main fuel distributors in metropolitan France.
A few cents per litre
Leclerc was the first supermarket to announce an operation of this magnitude, via a message on X (ex-Twitter) of its president Michel-Edouard Leclerc. It was also the cheapest distributor on all major brands between 20 and 27 September, according to figures from the Ministry of the Economy. Behind, other brands such as Carrefour have followed suit. "It is Leclerc that - through its leading position in mass distribution - sets the tempo," says Yves Marin, consumer and retail specialist at the Bartle consulting firm. Way of saying that the other brands had no choice but to follow. These operations are in addition to the cap of 1.99 euros/liter announced last February by Total and already in place.
However, the savings here will not be "spectacular" for the consumer, according to the director general of Système U Dominique Schelcher, interviewed this Tuesday on RTL. "Gasoline does not represent a significant margin for large retailers," confirms Michel Ruimy, economist and professor at Sciences-po Paris and ESCP. They make two to three cents per litre. »
For his part, the president of the Leclerc group estimated on franceinfo this Tuesday his margin at "2 to 3%" per liter, or "2 to 6 cents", speaking of a "real effort" for some stores whose fuel represents "30% of turnover". Depending on the distributor, the gain on a full tank of gas can vary from one to two euros. Far from making up for the increase in fuel prices for several weeks.
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So why do supermarkets and supermarkets – whose market share on road fuel was 59.9% in 2022 according to the French Union of Petroleum Industries Energies and Mobility – agree to play the game? "It's a product of appeal," says Michel Ruimy. This could therefore encourage some households to "consume". "When you go to buy gas at the supermarket, you often shop at the same time," he says. According to him, it also helps to improve the image of the brand. "It's a commercial gesture on the part of the brands," says Yves Marin.
At the same time, a fear is emerging among some consumers: an impact on food products. "We are not immune to occasional increases in supermarkets," says Michel Ruimy. Some products are increased by one cent to limit the loss on the price of gasoline. Faced with this, Système U - whose CEO said he "feared" this practice - announced on Wednesday an operation of 10% discount in its stores from October 20 and 21 and until the end of the year.