LECLERC POLISHES JEWELRY SHOPS

PARIS — French hypermarket Leclerc wants to convert more of its grocery shoppers into gold-bracelet buyers in its licensed Le Manege a Bijoux discount jewelry departments. Leclerc is hoping that a sleeker look, coupled with low prices, will build on the momentum it has established in the 10 years since the departments were launched.
Plans for the facelift were disclosed by Leclerc executives at a recent press conference. The Leclerc hypermarket business operates as a group of 510 independent retailers, similar to a franchise business. At the end of last year, 186 Manege a Bijoux counters were in operation in Leclerc hypermarkets across France.
The new in-store architecture features a sleeker, more modern design in which the display fixture is shaped like a carousel and is more accessible to customers. Soft red and yellow tones have replaced the grays and pinks.
The design makes more effective use of glass and natural light for better display of the quality and color of the jewelry. And salespeople have more room to maneuver.
Leclerc’s independent retailers will decide if they want to invest in the new concept. Leclerc hopes to introduce the revamped look in some stores in September, and roll it out through 1998.
Le Manege a Bijoux declined to state how many stores will have the updated format, nor would they disclose the terms of the licensing deal with Leclerc. They did not disclose volume broken out by department.
In addition to the new format, Leclerc has new print and film advertising, created by the Louis 14 advertising agency, based here. The campaign is aimed at a young and modern clientele and promotes the luxury of gold at affordable prices. According to Leclerc, women buying for themselves generate 40 percent of the volume of the jewelry business.
The print ads made their debut in France on March 15 in magazines such as Premiere, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Gala and Elle. A 40-second film spot will break in French cinemas on April 30.
Leclerc is perhaps the largest user of gold in France, through its jewelry sourcing effort via 45 jewelry manufacturers.
The World Gold Council estimates that Leclerc buys and processes six tons of gold a year and represents 11.5 percent of France’s gold market.
For 1996, Leclerc said it sold more than 2.5 million pieces of “quality” 18-karat gold at prices ranging from $7.14 (40 francs) for simple earrings to $4,509 (25,250 francs) for rings with precious stones. The average price of the discounter’s jewelry is $84 (468 francs).
Although the World Gold Council doesn’t consider Leclerc to be a traditional jeweler, the association acknowledges its tremendous purchasing power.
“Ten years ago, nobody believed in Leclerc. Now, it has to be accepted as an active player in the market,” said Nicole Bremond, jewelry manager at the World Gold Council in Paris.
“Over the last 10 years, Leclerc has recruited new customers who didn’t know 18-karat gold could be accessible.
“Leclerc has not had a negative effect on the image of gold in France,” Bremond continued. “[The store] has been extremely attentive to play on the image and luxury of gold.”
Leclerc, however, is just one of a handful of powerful players in France’s discount jewelry market.
There is competition from other hypermarket chains, such as Carrefour; variety chains, such as Monoprix, which is part of the Galeries Lafayette group, and discounter Tati, which is in the business with its Tati Or chain.

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