Discount ban: Carrefour cuts prices as market share grows

Discount ban: Carrefour cuts prices as market share grows
© Carrefour

As prices begin to stabilise back to a pre-coronavirus level, supermarket chain Carrefour has announced that it will temporarily lower the prices of 1,000 products in stores in Belgium as the supermarket giant’s market share grows in the country.

The price drop – which will take effect on Wednesday – will run until the end of June, and follows a year of strong growth by the French company in stores across Europe.

According to the group, 2020 kicked off with a strong start in January and February, when comparable growth was already 4.5%. This, in turn, was further helped by the ‘corona bonus’ in March.

While growth was seen across Europe, Belgium achieved quarterly sales of €1.053 billion – a comparable growth of 6.2% – and saw market shares increase both before and during the outbreak.

Alongside these promising returns, however, came reports of prices rising in stores across Belgium amid a temporary ban on discounts in the country, implemented at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis to put a stop to panic-buying and hoarding.

While it has since been lifted, during that time only promotions and discounts that had already been agreed on or carried out before 18 March were authorised – meaning many shoppers were seeing higher bills on their shopping.

2.6% rise

According to research by the Price Observatory, the coronavirus crisis made shopping more expensive in general, a factor which has only been exacerbated by the fact that promotions were prohibited in Belgium.

A comparison of Colruyt’s cash register tickets circulating on social media showed that, for example, a large bag of chips became 29% more expensive. Colruyt said that it received “a lot of reactions” about the prices over the past few days, reports Het Nieuwsblad.

Additional research by data company Daltix found that around 3,300 products in supermarkets in Belgium became more expensive between mid-March and the start of May 2020, with an average price rise of 2.6%.

Supermarkets, however, have been quick to point out that the increase was a result of circumstance, not action on their part. “We had warned about this when discounts and promotions suddenly became forbidden to discourage hoarding behaviour,” said Colruyt spokesperson Hanne Poppe.

This message was mirrored by a Carrefour spokesperson, who said that the company had “never consciously raised prices,” adding that “in the meantime, the price level is almost back to the level before the coronavirus crisis.”

With the new promotions on products across the country, the chain says it aims to help improve the purchasing power of customers, which follows comments by Federal Minister for Economy, Nathalie Muylle on the importance of discounts for lower-income families.

“For many families struggling to make ends meet at the moment, the promotions and discounts are indeed significant in terms of purchasing power,” Muylle said upon the lifting of the ban.

Supermarkets in Belgium have been able to offer discounts and promotions again from 4 May, when the first phase of deconfinement began.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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