ECONOMY

Carrefour-Marinopoulos considers new acquisitions

Carrefour-Marinopoulos, Greece’s largest supermarket and hypermarket chain, does not exclude acquiring competitors. The chain will also stick to its aggressive pricing policy, aiming at being not only the largest but also the cheapest retailer, says Managing Director Didier Fleury. «Carrefour-Marinopoulos gives priority to organic growth… there is always interest in an acquisition and we are open to any talks.» Recently, the company announced its cooperation with Smile Market, a move that, according to Fleury «marks the group’s active presence in northern Greece and boosts cooperation with dynamic firms with the aim of getting to the neighborhood level.» Fleury appears optimistic about the supermarket sector this year and believes that there are many opportunities for partnerships. «The retail sector is one of the most dynamic… this year, dynamic growth will continue thanks, in part, to the Olympic Games.» «The Greek market is a small and very competitive one. So the entry of a new competitor is difficult and costly. However, the entry of new players into the Greek market always works in favor of the consumer. All retail chains are expanding and all are active. The independent retailers have many opportunities to cooperate, either with Greek or foreign chains, through the franchise system.» Carrefour-Marinopoulos owns Carrefour hypermarkets and Marinopoulos supermarkets. It also has «5′ (five-minute) Marinopoulos» stores, medium-sized «fast shopping» stores it has developed through franchises. This makes a total of 51 sales points. «Next Monday, we will open a new Carrefour hypermarket in Pasalimani,» says Fleury. «It is in the heart of Piraeus and is the cheapest store in the area. We are in a phase of dynamic growth and our business plan for 2004 calls for the opening of new stores throughout Greece. We plan to open another hypermarket in Thessaloniki and, as for supermarkets, we plan to set a pace of opening about 10 new ones annually. The franchise stores are set up depending on demand,» he adds. Carrefour is sticking to the aggressive pricing policy it has followed ever since Carrefour entered the Greek market. It has repeatedly declared it would freeze prices, providing a big boost to the Development Ministry’s fight against inflation. «From January 15, 2004, we introduce our ‘1’ series. This is a series of products guaranteed to be the cheapest in the market. There will be a total of over 800 such products, among them 300 food products,» says Fleury, adding that the company will try to keep price rises at the level of inflation. «We will ensure (we have) the lowest prices in the market,» he adds. In 2003, the company achieved double-digit growth in sales and profits. Results will be announced «soon,» says Fleury.