“France is being cut in half,” said the president of U stores

There is what we say and what we do. There’s nothing like diving into our stores to observe key consumer trends. The sharp rise in energy costs causes the cards to be shuffled again. Biologically it is difficult.

The locals are reassuring, but we don’t know if this trend will continue. System U, which brought in 200,000 new customers last year, wants to remain competitive on price. Interview with the chairman, Dominique Schelcher, who has just signed a book, happiness is near, published by the Archipelago.

The races, a “reflection of our society”

What are the consequences of the energy crisis for purchases?

The consumer basket is always a reflection of our society. There is currently a real purchasing power tension resulting from the price of energy and heating costs. I see France cut in two. Half of the French feel at ease. They can opt for organic and consume differently. But 40% is on the nearest euro at the end of the month, according to a recent study by Elabe.

What considerations does the consumer make?

We go to the essential. We leave out the superfluous. New textiles have less priority. Other way around, there may be second hand clothes. This is something that is developing strongly within the brand. Other signals are buying slightly less meat and fish.

Is the local suffering?

All studies, including the most recent, still show that the local criterion has come first, ahead of organic and Label Rouge products. Will he be dethroned? It is not excluded because he was not in the lead three years ago. However, I think he keeps his strengths. The local has a reassuring dimension. It is less CO2 impact, employment in the regions, tradition.

Paying farmers a fair price

How to support the agricultural world?

50% of farmers will retire in the next ten years. If we don’t pay the right price for food, we risk experiencing a ‘de-agriculture’ like there was a de-industrialization. System You fight to change the situation. In Cléry (Maas) we even helped save a factory. We have supported several dairy cooperatives in great difficulty by signing five-year contracts and the milk supplied is labeled blue white heart.

A kind of tripartite agreement with farmers, manufacturers and distributors that we are trying to push through all of France. For the U brand, 80% of the products are made in France and a third of our U product activity is carried out on the basis of long-term contracts.

France “will not lack” wheat

What is the effect of the war in Ukraine on your supply chains?

Ukraine and Russia account for 76% of the world trade in sunflower oil. The shelves in our stores are empty due to precautionary purchases. Second, Ukraine is a major wheat producer.

We will not miss it in France. But the consequences of the war, on the other hand, will lead to an increase in the price of wheat-based products. In addition to these two agricultural products, aluminum, glass, certain packaging manufactured in Ukraine is subject to supply interruptions.

Where are you in ecommerce?

The health crisis has been a huge accelerator for digital. In this niche, System U made 1 billion euros in turnover last year out of a total of 23 billion euros. For our best stores this is already 10% of turnover.

In five years’ time this will be the last 20% of the activity. At group level, our goal is to double our digital turnover within five years. We invest in smartphone technology to make it easier for customers to order. It is a major revolution that requires heavy investments.

It is profitable?

If you’re going to make 10% of sales, it’s profitable. And then we have no choice. If we don’t offer this service, we will lose customers.

Tax equality between digital and physical commerce

the “Act quickly” (Immediate delivery) Worried?

What does it mean to deliver ten products within 10 minutes while advocating for more responsible consumption? In addition, these products are usually supplied by cyclists who work in poor social conditions. And I do not believe in the economic relevance of this model, while with baskets for 80 € for the to ride, profitability is already difficult.

In this respect you denounce an unequal relationship with the major digital platforms. What are you asking?

I advocate tax fairness between digital commerce and physical commerce. Both activities should be taxed in the same way. Today, large logistics warehouses are exempt from some of the taxes we pay. This is the case, for example, with Tascom (taxation on commercial surfaces).

Tangible difficulties in recruiting

Can you find the skills you need?

There are two difficulties. We struggle to find certain skills in the job market. That is why we have established a CFA (Apprentice Training Center) with a class of about fifty people per year. These are people who already have a diploma and are reorienting themselves.

On the other hand, there is a lack of mobility related in particular to the difficulty of finding housing in France. We are proposing a give and take: a reduction in the burden with, in return, a commitment to support those who are hesitant to support the offerings they see in other regions, including housing.

MAINTENANCE. Food: ‘France is being cut in half’, says U-shops president

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