retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal has an interview this morning with Carrefour CEO Lars Olofsson, who is looking to reposition the world’s second largest retailer as a low price alternative. Some excerpts:

• “If Carrefour had some difficulties in the last 10 years or so, it is because they lost focus on the consumer. Not everywhere - in my view, we're best-in-class internationally - but in Western Europe. Then new laws in France basically forbade retailers to compete by price. So Carrefour went for quality, which I think was good for the image of the company but negative in terms of its price reputation. The pricing laws have loosened, but Carrefour from then on wasn't the most competitive.”

• “Carrefour wasn't consistent in the execution of its strategy. There has been this ambiguity between going for the bottom line or for the top line, and that means the whole organization hasn't been aligned in one clear direction.”

• “In the 1960s, hypermarkets were food-oriented, and then we complemented food purchases with nonfood products. But in the last 15 years, category killers, or specialty stores, came in, so now we have to find another reason to be in nonfood products.”
KC's View:
One of the things that Olofsson tells the Journal, when asked if he does any of the family shopping, is, “I do some shopping every once in a while. I choose a Carrefour store, and it takes only a half an hour before employees find me.”

CEOs, of course, probably don't have a lot of time to go shopping. But I’ve always felt that in every supermarket organization, it ought to be a rule that everybody in senior management does all the family food shopping once a month. Everybody. No exceptions.