About to complete one year at the helm of Carrefour Brasil, Stéphane Maquaire, the group’s CEO, told Estadão/Broadcast that the company believes in its ability to expand activities in Brazil and that “it is not a phrase that will change everything”.
The questioning came after Economy Minister Paulo Guedes told an audience of businessmen in Brasília last week that France was irrelevant to Brazil. The minister said, as reported by Estadão/Broadcast, that he would “connect the f… if” to the European country.
“With the relevance we have, we can’t do anything because one person said something”, summarized the executive. After the purchase of Grupo Big, in March 2021, for R$7.5 billion, Carrefour became the largest private employer in Brazil. With more than a thousand points of sale, it has 150 thousand employees – more than in France and almost a quarter of the national food retail.
The turbulent scenario due to the October elections also does not affect the plans of the French company, which has been in the country for 47 years. “We will continue to serve our customers, whatever the decision of the Brazilian people,” said the executive. The plan is to repeat investments of a little less than R$2 billion in 2023 and focus on the opening of 20 new cash and carry stores under the Atacadão banner and in Express neighborhood stores, which he does not reveal how many there will be.
Egress from the group’s subsidiary in Argentina, he took office with two missions: to accelerate the company’s digital transformation and to integrate with Big.
Read the main excerpts from the interview below.
What is your management focus?
Make the integration with the Big, of people, of the market happen. But at the same time, we have to organize ourselves to deliver the best customer service, with a much faster journey to digital. When we talk about integration, there are 40 thousand more employees within Carrefour, the largest private employer in the country, with 150 thousand employees. For that, we have to have clear organization and strong communication to create a new culture. At the same time, we have to integrate 374 Big stores, of which 124 will be converted. We also have to work on synergies. We announced to the market that we have at least R$2 billion in synergies that we want to deliver by 2025. We want the integration of the Big to not hamper digital acceleration.
How is Big’s integration today?
It is complete in terms of organizational leadership. We present how we want to work. We are now working on store conversions and synergy conversions. We started in June and have 124 stores to convert into various formats: Big hypermarket for Atacadão, for Carrefour or Sam’s Club hypermarket. The new format for us is Sam’s Club. Maxxi stores will be converted into Atacadão. This takes time. We are working on the first conversions and we have announced 18 months to convert 124 stores. We started and we are doing very well. When we convert a store, we need two to three years to reach the sales level of the new format.
How is the digital acceleration process going?
From the classic model of the DC (distribution center) to deliver to customers, we changed to having the preparation of orders inside the stores. Since March, 100 hypermarket and supermarket stores and some Express stores have been preparing orders for customers. As a result, we are able to deliver on the same day. We also have the digitization of Atacadão. We are growing.
What is the share of e-commerce in sales?
Today it is 4%. The goal is to reach double digits in 2026.
In the coming months, will Carrefour have as a priority which store format, given the increase in inflation?
We will maintain the growth of Atacadão and also the neighborhood store; 47 Big stores will become hypermarkets. We are still evaluating the potential of this Sam’s Club format, where customers are members. Let’s convert seven Big stores to this format. Let’s get to 54 and then we want to grow.
How is Carrefour dealing with inflation?
We are pushing our own brand products, showing that there is a possibility for our customers to buy cheaper in our stores. We also have products with smaller packaging to serve customers who buy less and more often. We are negotiating with suppliers to control supply inflation and acting in all sectors to have a better price positioning. When we released the results for the first quarter, we showed that we lowered the margin to follow the curve of rising inflation. From November of last year to January of this year, we implemented the strategy of frozen prices for our private label.
How much does the private label represent in sales?
It represents 20%. These are small initiatives to face this rise in prices in the country.
What is the scenario for the second half?
Auxílio Brasil gives people the possibility to buy food. We have the possibility of maintaining the growth registered in the first half of the year. I can’t say much more.
At the same time that there is a larger Auxílio Brasil, of R$ 600, the interest rate has gone up a lot…
But as there is a bank within Carrefour Brasil, we have the opportunity to support the financed sale, in installments in three interest-free installments.
How does Carrefour view the statement by Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, made last week to an audience of businessmen in Brasília, that France is irrelevant to Brazil?
Face the positive conditions that the country has. We will continue to invest in the country, through the opening of stores and growth in digital. That’s all that Carrefour France has for Brazil. The gates are open.
Does this statement change the investment plan?
We’ve been here for 47 years, and it’s not a sentence that will change everything. We believe in the ability to grow activities in Brazil yesterday, today and tomorrow. With the relevance we have, we can’t do anything because one person said something.
How much will the company invest this year and in 2023 and how many stores does the group intend to open?
This year we will open 20 Atacadão stores, excluding conversions. Of the 124 stores to be converted, 70 will be Atacadão. We will open 20 Atacadão stores next year. Of the R$ 2.1 billion in conversions, we will probably maintain the level of investments, I cannot say how much. We normally invest a little less than R$2 billion.
like mr. see the electoral scene?
We will continue to serve our customers, whatever the decision of the Brazilian people. We follow our path, whatever happens, with the aim of growing.
How does the matrix look at the electoral scenario, the uncertainties and attacks on democracy?
I think the world is going through directions like that. In France, we had the yellow coats (a movement that started against rising fuel prices and expanded to broader social dissatisfaction) and in the United States we had the episode in January 2021 (invasion of the Capitol).
The information is from the newspaper. The State of São Paulo.