I should probably point out here that the ongoing focus on Carrefour in this blog is no representation of any underlying agenda: I’ve just coincidentally happened to see half a dozen amazing Carrefour stores in Poland and Spain in early 2018. A combination of a fortunate travel itinerary and Carrefour raising its game I guess.

Although its smaller sibling Carrefour Pro has been gathering many plaudits in recent months thanks to its awesomeness in fresh and liberal use of technology, I would hate for the larger Carrefour store in Warsaw’s Galeria Północna to lose out on its share of the glory. Much, much bigger, with a greater amount of space devoted to GM, this store – which opened in the new shopping centre in September last year – is superb and has a few technological flourishes of its own.

The future of general merchandise in hypermarkets can best be summed up in the following way: stop selling every possible non-food category in a mundane and average fashion. Instead, pick a few battles where you can believe you can achieve credibility and authority and then lavish a bit of investment and well-trained personnel on turning these categories into genuine traffic-drivers. Many food retailers have opted for clothing, home & kitchen, health & beauty and baby as their hero non-food categories, but the focus in this store also includes an absolutely tremendous toy department.

As Toys R Us is painfully demonstrating around the world at the moment, it is easy to suck any semblance of joy out of toy buying and merchandising, but this Carrefour – with a little bit of help from suppliers – shows that it is possible to reinstate no small amount of fun via mechanics such as branded end-caps and floor graphics.

A side note here is that Mattel has transformed one of the store’s checkouts into a gigantic Hot Wheels car that entertains kids as their parents load up the conveyor or allows the kids to help transfer the groceries from trolley to checkout. I was unable to capture this on camera, as I prefer not to be punched by irate fathers, but I can promise you this this is a work of towering genius.

The rest of non-food was pretty solid, clothing, books, stationery, media and electronics done particularly well, and there were decent ranges in categories like DIY and sports too. Health & beauty was a highlight, with some great fixtures and branded promotions complementing a very strong core range.

In the same way as toys, BWS has been commoditised beyond recognition by many food retailers. What a missed opportunity. The category, inhabited by brands with great history, heritage, national and regional identities and some fascinating stories to tell, are often simply rammed on shelves, with brutal EAS tags around them to add insult to injury. Carrefour really redresses the balance here.

Products are given room to breathe; suppliers that wish to bring their stories to life are afforded the opportunity; and the retailer creates an environment that invites deliberation and browsing rather than price-driven smash & grab behaviour. A touchscreen is on hand to provide videos and ingredients for would-be cocktail makers, around which spirits and mixers are merchandised.

As one explores the broader grocery offer, one remains deeply impressed by this proposition. Bulk foods are an unexpected treat, as is a world-beating pick & mix section, while produce is a lovely feature – some superlative displays set off well by impressive lighting, graphics and signage.

The service counters are excellent, with a personal highlight being the onsite smoker that not only creates some damn fine product, but a very nice smell too. I have never cursed a lack of hold luggage quite so much as I did on this occasion.

A final point here. There were a few posters I spotted around the place, with general managers, department managers and checkout service leaders all being pictured and named, with assurances about quality, service and so on. I really like this approach: humanising the retailer’s brand and actually making its promises much more meaningful and convincing. A lovely finishing touch to yet another storming concept from Carrefour.

Bryan Roberts, Global Insights Director

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