WABEL: You are the CORA supermarket director in Reims, FRANCE, a retail space of 10.000 m⊃2;. You are also in charge of the entire frozen product category for the group. What does this position represent? How is Cora’s marketing and purchasing for this product range organized?
As the manager of the frozen product category for Cora France, which represents 59 hypermarkets, my missions are the following:
- Organize and lead meetings
- Organize business intelligence for assortment, product, pricing and services
- Coordinate the marketing, purchasing, logistics, the computer systems and the sales to improve the sales performance and the results of the frozen food department
- Stimulate the exchanges between stores for best practices and good experiments
- Recommend attractive points of differentiation for the frozen food department
- Manage sales promotion and national advertising campaigns
Every product is classified in a family that is overseen by a triptych composed of the head of market (it is a division manager who represents the 59 department managers and takes care of a group of families), of the marketing manager and the buyer. The three of them make decisions together. Thus a new supplier has to meet 3 people before joining Cora partners.
WABEL: What percentage of your store’s food sales does the frozen product department represent?
The frozen food department represented 3 per cent of the turnover in 2012.
WABEL: What is the share of the private label assortment in your department?
We have 340 references in Cora products today out of ca 900 references in total, i.e. almost 37 %!
WABEL: Are there product segments whose growth is particularly dynamic?
The ice-cream segment is the segment that progressed most since the beginning of the year and in particular cones and confectionery. The appetizer family the fish sticks and potatoes are also doing very well. One segment is suffering: the ready meals, which declined a lot at the beginning of the year with the much publicised “horsegate” when the meat segment remained stable in value because of sharp raw materials price increases. Overall the frozen food department progressed slightly. This department is relatively immune to weather effects because it covers all meal courses, a real advantage and a real growth potential, provided the shelf space changes with the weather…
WABEL: You have recently operated changes to your frozen department merchandising and revamped or renewed of your furniture. What were the motivations underlying these changes?
The frozen food department has always been a cold department, cold because products are presented at – 22 ° C (!) but first and foremost because its design is difficult to keep over time due to the repetitive 4 season set-ups. As a result, frozen food departments are often "white" with a "hospital" feel. We worked for two years on this issue to find THE solution that allows to modulate easily the dressing of the department without outside help, make it warmer with colours and clear segmentations to make our customers’ lives easier.
Thus, since the beginning of the year 6 stores have been testing this new dressing, which gives a magnificent result and really warms the department. It was also an opportunity for us to re-examine the segmentation by meal courses. The frozen food department actually covers all the moments of a meal, from appetizers to desserts.
WABEL: Is the merchandising of this department, in your opinion, generally not optimized?
At Cora we give in-house training to the new heads of departments or employees to raise their awareness of the importance of merchandising. This department moves a lot and is often complex to install because of the multiplicity of furniture (chest freezers, display cases or cupboards). Our 59 stores all have different pieces of furniture of various sizes depending on the modes of consumption. The most important thing is to meet our customers’ needs and in particular to make their lives easier when they are in our department; for example a national brand product is bought in 10 seconds! That is why the set-up must be very clear and logical to the customer, keeping in mind that promotion weighs heavily in the frozen food department. Merchandising is very important but the most important thing remains the way we deal with out-of-stock products, the number 1 priority.
WABEL: What are the repercussions of the implementation of the new shop windows and cupboards?
Cora made a commitment with the FCD to close all cold shelves by 2020. It is a real plus for customers who are no longer inconvenienced with the cold, the comfort of purchase is maximum. One of our fears about putting doors to close the shelves was that customers would not close them after use. The conclusion is clear: all customers are disciplined for once and systematically close the doors! The second advantage is environmental as it reduces almost by half the production of cold, which also implies significant cost savings.
WABEL: Will it lead to the renewal of some frozen assortments?
Every time a store renews its shelf space, which implies heavy investments, it is readjusted to local consumption. Over the past years, we have expended our frozen food departments overall, which allowed us to extend the range of products on offer. The last and best example is that of Cora in Massy, France, one of the biggest hypermarket frozen food departments with a selection comparable with that of a specialist.
WABEL: Were you able to measure the impact of your new merchandising organization?
- In term of attendance of the frozen section
- In term of volume of purchase of your customers
We measure every month the penetration rate of every department of the store. Out of 100 customers who pass through the cash registers, how many bought from my department?
Since we set up this new dressing, the attendance rate of the frozen food department strongly progressed and continues its double-digit growth.
WABEL: Wabel organizes the 2nd Private Label Frozen Summit on 12 & 13 March 2014.
Do you plan to attend? What do you expect from a specialized meeting such as that proposed by Wabel?
This kind of meeting is always interesting to discover new products. What I expect from a new partner is to bring us something different that enables us to meet our customers’ new expectations. We need to constantly look at things in a new light to avoid being overtaken and remain one step ahead.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.
Antoine Bonnel for the Wabel Frozen News 2