Charente: a funny grocery store to supply the towns

“I can’t stand big box stores anymore”

Owner’s turn. The 40 m wooden stall2, installed route de Blanzac, looks like a mobile home. Julien Nau brings his smartphone closer to the sensor. Beep. The glass door opens onto shelves loaded with 700 references. Batteries, triangle sandwiches, lemon juice, detergent, frozen steaks… Everything for “shopping for two or three days”, explains the boss. Except alcohol, to prevent unsupervised minors from buying it. At the checkout, you scan the barcodes yourself and pay by card. Cash is prohibited.

The target: villagers located 30 minutes round trip from a supermarket. Paulette Clapaud is the model customer. “I come from Mainfonds, I usually do my shopping at La Couronne or Blanzac explains this retiree. But the road is dangerous and with the price of gasoline…” Delphine Anicet adopts the same line. “Until now I have had to take my vehicle to go to the Super U in Châteauneuf, 25 km round tripbegins the neighbor of the store. There I can come on foot. » More economical. “And I can’t stand big box stores anymore. » She imagines coming for extra shopping. Chantal Chauvin, on the contrary, will get used to it. “If I want to cook a blanquette I will go elsewhere, but here it can become regular”, testifies this local resident who came on foot.

If you put someone 24 hours a day, it doesn’t work economically.

Do your shopping in a small grocery store? A splurge on the wallet in most cities. Not here. “Three quarters of our products are at supermarket prices”, guarantees Julien Nau. Count €1.08 for four organic yoghurts, €2.62 for 250 g of butter. The reason: Api is supplied by Carrefour. Two-thirds of its references come from the private label.

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Above all, the start-up is chasing operating costs and putting economies of scale at the forefront. The standardized building will serve as a model for future locations. A manager rotates between five stores. She comes by once a day and takes care of everything. “Cleaning, shelving, inventory, customer relationslists Julien Nau. If you put someone 24 hours a day, it doesn’t work economically. » Each grocery store has its own reserve, supplied twice a week by Carrefour. Exit logistics and storage costs.

40 stores in one year

Two grains of sand could nevertheless seize the machine. Who says automatic says technology. Thus, to obtain a customer account, you must download the API application (available next week) and therefore master the use of the smartphone. Not always obvious among the target audience: rural retirees. “I’m not very internet, it will be necessary to see the use”, confides Delphine Anicet. Another solution is to order a customer card… on the website. Or with the manager, present two hours a day on site. To solve this puzzle, members of the team will be on duty for two weeks following the opening of a store.

Another difficulty: the flights. Nothing prevents a dishonest from leaving without paying. Julien Nau sweeps away this possibility. “We do the inventory every day so we will quickly spot the holes. » The six or seven surveillance cameras should help identify the malicious client. “We are not here to police people, if we spot a problem, we will discuss with the person, in town hall”, considers the co-founder.

The company plans express development. By January 2023, three new stores are to open, in Marsac, Sers and Germignac (17). Ten by March. Forty in a year. The company focuses first on New Aquitaine “before looking further”distills Julien Nau.

“We didn’t want to dehumanize the concept”

Julien Nau and Alex Grammatico, the co-founders of Api, do not like the term “grocery store without a salesperson”. They prefer the qualifier “autonomous”. More seller and according to them, closer to reality. “In fact, it is the customers who are autonomous, explains Julien Nau. Because there is a seller. » Or rather a manager, present two hours a day. In Claix, Valérie Pelloquin was hired. She refutes suspicions of a cold, soulless store. “Here there remains a notion of contact, of customer relations, Congratulations to this former retailer and textile discounter. I have time to talk with people, nothing to do with supermarkets” where all gestures are timed and discussion with the client discouraged.
Alright, but when Valerie is busy in other stores, Claix’s shell will ring hollow. Julien Nau ensures that assistance will always be available. The manager’s cell phone is displayed on the front of the grocery store. An intercom “connected from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with our customer service”, will also allow a quick response in the event of a cashing problem or with the front door. At night and on Sundays, the link will switch to a service provider.

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