In his regular column for Retail Times, Simon Chinn, lead consultant at retail research agency, Conlumino, reviews the new U Express LM format in France, which marries the U Express convenience chain of Systeme U with the discount ranges of Coop
Systeme U and Coop de Normandie-Picardie are trialling a hybrid convenience-discounter format under the banner U Express LM.
While the two co-operative chains have been in partnership since 2009, sharing some elements of distribution and sourcing, this store marks the first time they have collaborated in such a direct way and launched a combined format with both retailers effectively trading under one roof.
The concept combines the key aspects of an urban convenience store (in terms of store fitting and design) and the range of a hard discount store. The store has a similar layout and presentation as a traditional U Express store. However, the range is very different and includes Le Mutant, the discount brand for Coop stores.
The store is heavily skewed towards the retailers’ own private labels rather than national brands. It sells a mix of U branded products and Le Mutant discount ranges. But the focus is mainly on cheaper discount brands. U’s normal entry level products are replaced by Le Mutant’s, giving the store a different good, better, best range of private label.
While the concept is currently only being trialled at this one store, it is an interesting approach for both Systeme U and Coop to combine their convenience concepts with a price-led offer to target cash strapped consumers in these austere times. If it proves successful with the local population, more of these ‘mutant’ stores are likely to pop up around the north of France.