In Customers

With its Culinarion and Ambiance & Styles banners, EK France enjoyed an exceptional 2015 in a market that remains challenging. Eric Holzinger looks back at the major projects for the cooperative's associates.

// Pouvez-vous revenir sur l’évolution d’EK France depuis votre arrivée en 2014 ?

When I took over the management of EK France in 2014, I discovered a cooperative based in Germany, EK ServiceGroup (of which EK France is the subsidiary), and which today has over 4,000 points of sale in various sectors and many countries. After a quick analysis of the French market and the group's situation, we launched a number of projects, notably in the areas of communication, point-of-sale promotion and product strategy.

On the communications front, we worked to raise the national profile of the Ambiance & Styles brand by launching a television advertising campaign a few months ago and for the first time. This was a real novelty for us, with a presence on screens between mid-November 2015 and mid-January 2016. We also developed our communications and distributed 1,700,000 copies of our latest Christmas catalog. We operate in a highly seasonal sector, with December accounting for around 25% of annual sales. Like-for-like growth of 7.5% on Ambiance & Styles and 11% on Culinarion in December enabled us to return to very good results in 2015. This momentum continued in the first quarter of 2016, with double-digit increases for both banners.

// Vous êtes sur un objectif de notoriété pour vos enseignes. Quelles sont les autres actions que vous mettez en place ?

Our group is developing its product strategy with the creation of its own Chefs & Co brand, which was launched a few weeks ago. We're starting with a range of knives, then our customers will be able to discover other products in their stores in May-June, and we'll be gradually expanding this offering. These exclusive collections are designed to stand out from the crowd and boost margins for our members, while offering the best value for money to our customers.

We're developing our digital strategy, with communication on social networks led by a community manager, combined with a more aggressive sales promotion plan. Still on the digital front, we have just launched mobile applications for our two banners, which will be enhanced in terms of functionality over the coming months. The idea is to offer an increasingly personalized service to our customers. Finally, between now and September, we're going to completely overhaul our websites, with the aim of enriching the product offering for our "Click and Collect" business. To date, we have between 600 and 700 references on our sites, and we're going to increase this number to over 3,000 references by the summer, in order to have an offer representative of our stores as part of a web-to-store strategy. Mechanically, this work will help improve the natural referencing of our websites.

This global strategy of developing brand awareness will also lead us to renew the Ambiance & Styles TV advertising campaign at the end of 2016. All these projects have short deadlines in order to stay ahead of the market.

// Parlez-nous du développement du réseau.

EK France is determined to relaunch the development of its network for its two brands, which explains our presence at the Franchise Fair after an absence of five years. These initial steps have led to the development of some sixty contacts, which could lead to openings in the near future.

We have the potential to double the size of EK France, with 70 Culinarion outlets and 200 Ambiances & Styles stores. To facilitate this ambition, we're looking to make life easier for our entrepreneurs, so that they can consider opening a second or even a third Culinarion outlet. point of sale. By supporting them in their day-to-day management, they will be able to plan a multi-store strategy. Some of our associates have understood this, but it's still too marginal in the network. For our members, value creation means developing their business beyond the growth of individual stores. Furthermore, as in all networks, we will be faced with a number of transfers in the coming years due to retirements. It's clear that takeovers will involve not only the recruitment of new associates, but also players already present within EK France who want to grow. It's our duty to give them the means to do so.

// Comment pensez-vous améliorer la vie de vos adhérents ?

We are beginning to simplify the management of our merchants by working in partnership with our 100 suppliers. For example, we're creating a single product database that will be fed dynamically to speed up updates, whether on product descriptions or price adjustments. It's exactly this type of time-consuming task that we're trying to reduce as much as possible.

But our challenge remains retailing, with the ability to duplicate winning recipes:
So I can already tell you that 2016 will see the launch of a new store concept for Culinarion. A new initiative that will satisfy both our customers and our associates!

 Article published on the FCA website

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