I have just heard that the French retail giant Carrefour is entering Georgia. This is good news. Carrefour is the master or combining low prices with the high (or at least decent) quality. It is also an inventor of hypermarket concept. Good quality price ratio and convenience are things the Georgian consumer is craving for.
But there is much more to this fact than pure benefit for the Georgian customer. As the worlds second largest retailer, after Walmart, Carrefour commands the supply chain that circles the globe. For example, my milk, as Carrefour customer’s, comes from Chile, rice from Thailand, salmon from Norway, bananas from Colombia, grapefruits from China, apples from France. The presence of Carrefour operations in Georgia gives the country’s suppliers a good chance to get integrated into its global chain. Although I am not a big fan of making agriculture one of the priorities for development, given the strong culture and currently underutilized resources I see nothing bad in benefiting from it in the not-so-long-run.
Of course, part of the menu that Carrefour will offer Georgian consumers will be of Georgian origin. However, aim should be getting Georgian produce on Carrefour shelves in other countries. This will not be easy. The company has two clear guidelines – quality and social responsibility. Quality has been Carrefour’s concern since its foundation. Social responsibility and environmental concerns have surfaced in the company strategy more recently. Carrefour stores carry large number of Fair Trade products and business schools teach Carrefour’s experience of incorporating rural farmers in Ecuador into their supply chain as (partially) a social project. And this happened without any Carrefour operations in the country.
However, as any large business, Carrefour is also a very pragmatic company. It has to see a good number of potential customers before it devotes its precious shelf space to a product. So much so that my local store carries about 25 different brands of whisky and only two brands of Cognac. And this is in France! So, again, getting on Carrefour shelves will not be an easy task. But as the company seems to start entering ex-Soviet Union from south Caucasus (Georgian will be the second country after Azerbaijan with Carrefour operations) and as “Georgia” is still a recognizable brand in the region, this event might hold an interesting opportunity for Georgia. Georgian produce has a fresh opportunity to return, or even better – emerge, on store shelves in quite a few countries. Through Carrefour!
For more information about Zakaria Babutsidze, visit his website.