Carrefour

PARIS — The grocery retail sector is due for consolidation as it changes to adapt to changing consumption habits, Carrefour chief executive officer Alexandre Bompard told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting Friday.

“There will be transactions, difficulties, consolidation in the five to 10 years to come,” said Bompard, citing weak growth, a crowded sector, along with the looming threat of global, digital players like Amazon.

“I think there are many, many competitors in this market, not just in France, by the way…If you take France, for example, there are six or seven actors that share a market that is without growth and that has weak margins. Add to that, we are at the beginning of the arrival of the large, universal platforms like Amazon, into this segment. So what I think — and I feel it strongly — is that this market will evolve,” said the executive.

Bompard has embarked on a broad overhaul of the company to adapt to changing consumption habits, forging a partnership with Google to gain a technological edge over competitors. He also set up purchasing alliances with Système U in France and Tesco abroad, to add weight in negotiations with suppliers. 

The group has over the past decade struggled to adapt its network of big-box stores, or hypermarkets — a model invented by the group in the Sixties that brings household goods and groceries under the same roof — to better suit shifting consumption habits as the rise of digital means increases options.

“My mission is to be on the side of the winners — because there will be winners and losers,” he added. 

While supermarkets are performing well, the larger hypermarket stores need to be considerably revamped, said Bompard, noting he thinks they will have an important role in the evolution of the non-food retail business in the future.

The executive faced heated questioning from union members in the audience, who sat together and wore orange safety vests. Noting they agreed the company needs to adapt, they said they were concerned about jobs and thought management was moving too quickly. 

Defending his overhaul efforts, Bompard stressed a focus on shoring up omnichannel services, and providing consumers as many options as possible. He is also emphasizing local and organic produce.

Shareholders approved a new mission statement saying the company would seek to offer clients good quality services, products and food, accessible to all through various distribution channels — with a local focus, and the ambition of being a leader in the “food transition for all.”

Shareholders also approved new board members, investment fund manager Claudia Almeida e Silva and Rimowa chief executive officer Alexandre Arnault, who replaced his father, Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.