MAINTENANCE. Food: “France is cut in two”, according to the president of U stores – Ouest-France

There is what we say and what we do. Nothing like a dive into our shopping to observe the major consumer trends. The sharp rise in the cost of energy is reshuffling the cards. Organic is struggling. The local is reassuring, but we don’t know if this trend will last or not. System U, which won 200,000 new customers last year, wants to remain attentive to price. Interview with its president, Dominique Schelcher, who has just signed a book, Happiness is in the close, published by Archipelago. Shopping, a “reflection of our society” What are the repercussions of the energy crisis on purchases? The consumer basket is always a reflection of our society. There is currently a real tension linked to purchasing power which is the result of the price of energy and the heating bill. I see France cut in two. Half of the French are comfortable. They can choose organic and start to consume differently. But 40% are to the nearest euro at the end of the month according to a recent study by Elabe. What trade-offs does the consumer make? We go to the essential. We leave out the superfluous. New textiles are less of a priority. Conversely, there may be second-hand clothes. This is something that is in strong development within the brand. Other signs include buying slightly less meat and fish. Is the local suffering? All the studies, including the most recent, continue to show that the local criterion has become the 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. I think, however, that he retains his strengths. The local has a reassuring dimension. It’s less carbon impact, employment in the regions, tradition. Remunerate farmers at 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-agriculturalization” as there was a de-industrialization. System U is fighting to change the game. In Cléry (Meuse), we even helped to save a factory. We have supported several dairy cooperatives in great difficulty by signing five-year contracts and the milk delivered is labeled blue white heart. A type of tripartite contract with farmers, manufacturers and distributors that we are trying to push throughout France. For the U brand, 80% of products are made in France and a third of our U product activity is carried out under 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 world trade in sunflower oil. In our stores, the shelves are empty due to precautionary purchases. Second example, Ukraine is a major wheat producer. We will not miss it in France. But the consequences of the war will on the other hand lead to an increase in the price of wheat-based products. Beyond these two agricultural products, aluminum, glass, certain packaging manufactured in Ukraine are subject to supply disruptions. Where are you in e-commerce? The health crisis has been a tremendous accelerator for digital. On this niche, System U made 1 billion euros in turnover out of a total of 23 billion euros last year. For our best stores, this already represents 10% of turnover. In five years, this will represent for the latter 20% of the activity. At group level, our objective is to double our digital turnover within five years. We are investing in smartphone technology to make it easier for customers to order. It is a profound upheaval that requires heavy investment. It’s profitable ? When you start making 10% of the turnover, it’s profitable. And then we have no choice. If we don’t offer this service, we lose customers. Tax equity between digital and physical commerce Are you worried about “quick commerce” (instant delivery)? What is the meaning of delivering ten products within 10 minutes, when we are calling for more responsible consumption? Moreover, these products are most often delivered by cyclists who work in poor social conditions. And I do not believe in the economic relevance of this model, whereas with baskets at 80 € for the drive, profitability is already difficult. In this area, you denounce an unequal relationship with the major digital platforms. What are you asking? I plead for tax fairness between digital commerce and physical commerce. Both activities should be taxed in the same way. Today, large logistics warehouses are exempt from a number of taxes that we pay. This is the case, for example, of Tascom (tax on commercial surfaces). Palpable recruiting difficulties Are you finding the skills you need? There are two difficulties. We struggle to find certain skills in the job market. This is why we have created a CFA (Apprentice Training Center) with a class of around fifty people each year. These are people who already have a diploma and are reorienting themselves. On the other hand, there is a lack of mobility linked in particular to the difficulty of finding accommodation in France. We are making a give-and-take proposal: a reduction in charges with, in return, a commitment to support, including housing, for people who hesitate to accept the offers they see in other regions. MAINTENANCE. Food: “France is cut in two”, according to the president of the stores UEXPAND