Welcome to the final episode in my Carrefour love-in: this time we’re taking a look at a Carrefour Market in Poland. I was prompted to write about this store by a conversation I had this week with an observer of the Polish market. Amongst other things, he seemed convinced that Polish supermarkets are ‘boring’ and he was equally confident that they were struggling to compete against the discounters.

I might have been inclined to agree a couple of years ago, but having seen some lovely stores from Carrefour, Stokrotka and Piotr y Pavel recently, I’m inclined to think that Polish operators are among the more progressive in Europe in terms of store design, merchandising, loyalty and marketing.

Having previously written on a couple of Carrefour hypermarkets in Warsaw, this time one of their little siblings in the Carrefour Market stable is up for analysis. I think I’ve already noted that Carrefour Market used to be something of a poor relation within the French retailer’s global arsenal of store formats, with more strategic focus and money being pointed at hypermarkets, convenience and Drive rather than at the supermarket division.

Supermarkets are back in favour, seemingly, with my recent encounters in France, Spain, Italy and Poland proving that revitalising the supermarket operations are something of a priority for Carrefour.

This store, situated in the same building as Carrefour’s Retail Lab innovation centre, really is a cracker from start to finish and genuinely makes me question how some other retailers around Europe try and position themselves as somehow ‘premium’ when they are a million miles away from this experience, with their focus on cost-cutting and extensive use of soulless plastic trays.

It can be easy for some retailers to lose sight of ‘value’ when they set about premiumising their instore experience, but Carrefour Market makes sure that is front and centre of their positioning: a large digital screen at the store’s entrance documenting Carrefour’s price advantage over discount competitors Lidl and Biedronka – an advantage that is extended when shoppers avail themselves of offers through the Carrefour loyalty card.

Once reassured on prices, shoppers plunge headlong into produce, and what a total joy that is. Deft touches such as a strong deployment of wooden fixtures (even for the relatively unglamorous world of onions and garlic); a great little unit for live herbs and a beautiful basket display for fruit make for a superb visual experience and suitably enhanced perceptions of the proposition.

The back wall of the store is home to a delightful run of service counters: bakery, meat, fish, cheese and deli, which gives way to the instore smoker that prepares product for both the meat and fish counters (I think – my understanding of Polish is not all that great). The bakery is excellent with some display fixtures that are very good indeed, while the rest of the counters also benefit from a differentiated look and feel, strong graphics and some lovely backdrops that seek to educate as well as looking pretty.

The booze department is splendid. Great fixtures are mixed with displays from branded manufacturers to great effect and the overall atmosphere benefits from demarcated décor including timber, brickwork and differentiated flooring and lighting.

The centre of the store, unsurprisingly devoted to ambient, household, pet and health & beauty etc., is another example of a store that, by installing main fixtures at an angle rather than in the same old perpendicular positioning, generally makes life more interesting. Even in these areas, a very pleasing combination of handwritten chalk signage and photographs optimises both navigation and aesthetics. The blackboards imbue the store with a sense of personality, so miserably absent in most other supermarkets I encounter.

Summing up, and in response to the person I was speaking to earlier in the week: Polish supermarkets are the polar opposite of boring and they appear to be making a pretty decent fist of co-existing with discounters. Hats off, once again, to Carrefour, and you can add this store to the profoundly lengthy list of ‘reasons to visit Warsaw’.

Bryan Roberts, Global Insights Director

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