Seen from the outside, the facade of the Monop ‘in rue de Marseille, at 10And arrondissement of Paris, is similar to all the others. The expert observer will perhaps notice the immaculate whiteness of its walls, the few green plants that dominate the window or the smell of churros that emerges at tea time. It is upon entering the store that you realize that this is no ordinary grocery store. From the “My name is reviens” loan service – which allows local residents to borrow waffle machines, beer dispensers, skateboards, disco balls or a simple umbrella for free – to self-service battery terminals, via the mostly on all shelves (household goods, muesli, dry food for cats and dogs, etc.), you are absolutely nowhere. If you doubt it, Cécile Coulon’s poems, distributed on postcards at the exit, will convince you.
The sign on rue de Marseille, a prototype released by the Casino Group innovation department, is the most successful example of the rebirth of supermarkets – small and large – which intertwine, like valiant public services, the territory of large cities. In competition with online sales, halfway between the hypermarket – relegated to the margins of urban areas – and the small merchant, Monop ‘, Franprix, U Express, Carrefour City, Naturalia or Biocoop, today they want to be the refuge of a urban population in search of fantasy, social ties and closeness. A population that recognizes, at 93%, that they feel a sense of loneliness despite the population density. These lonely citizens that Michel Houellebecq brought into literature, like Proust before him, the strollers of the Parc Monceau. A Michel Houellebecq that he himself swears to ” ginger rum, cigarettes and Monoprix “, Who appreciates” the kind of urban cheer ” And ” the extraordinary soup line “ and whose characters in the novels wander, with more or less delight, on the opulent shelves.
Far from blackout (those urban warehouses that power instant food delivery services) e pedestrian routes threatening them more and more, these increasingly hybrid and segmented urban signs draw the contours of a physical consumption that refuses to say its last word. They are also the symbol of what Jérôme Fourquet calls “demoienization from above” (ie the juxtaposition of part of the middle class towards the upper classes) applied here to supermarkets, which therefore rise to the top. Its opposite counterpart, “belittling from below,” leads the other part of this newly torn middle class to frequent the brands of strong discount (Aldi, Lidl). Embarrassed by the covid crisis, still weakened by the economic crisis and inflation, these places of strolling and consumption could be saved by their symbolic and social function, much more than by their purely commercial function. Monop ‘, new safe space of the lonely urban youth? Or the last survivor of a model inherited from the last century, destined inexorably to extinction?
Tangerines in the city
To fully understand the rise of shops like the one on rue de Marseille, we need to go back fifteen years, to the early 2000s, when large retailers changed gears. For some time focused on peri-urban gigantism, distributors have decided to focus on the inside of cities, developing new concepts on a human scale, more modern, more attractive and – above all – closer to consumer expectations.
From the writings of Georg Simmel on “Big cities and the life of the mind” at the end of the 19th centuryAnd century, urban solitude is a widely documented phenomenon, which seems destined to increase and which would have given rise to a ” Civilization of the cocoon “ recently described by journalist Vincent Cocquebert. It was this clientele, courted by Amazon and in love with her sofa, that she was sought after.
One of the architects of this transformation is called Jean-Paul Mochet. Almost twenty years ago, when he joined the Casino group, he started from an apparently simple observation: the proximity of urban brands is limited to geographical proximity, to the detriment of human and social proximity. The shops multiply and overlap, without identity or incarnation. the incarnation, this is what he will look for in 2015, when he will thoroughly reform the Franprix stores (of which he will be general manager from August 2008 to July 2019). From a group of dying franchises with no identity, Franprix unites behind the concept of “tangerine” and proudly wears orange in its 860 stores. The shop is transformed into a real “living space”, open to the street. You will be able to buy your roast half chicken and your potatoes still hot, drink a freshly squeezed orange juice or leave the keys safely to a trained staff at the reception and customer service. The transformation is a success.
Similar concepts and services were developed in other brands in the same decades from 2000 to 2010: Monop ‘from 2005, Carrefour city in 2009, A2pas in 2011, etc. which attract an increasingly large and segmented clientele, mainly belonging to the middle and upper classes of large cities. At the top of the ranking we find the Monoprix brand and its “small format” versions (Monop ‘, Monop Beauty), which illustrate, again for Fourquet, this trend towards “premiumization”. At the Monoprix in the Montparnasse district, which covers 5,000 square meters, you can play or listen to the piano, attend conferences or take cooking lessons in the “public square”, a vast agora located in the center of the shop. The phenomenon is not limited to Paris either. Last May, Monoprix opened a bike cafe in Annecy. The place offers rental services, a range of used bicycles and a café area. In Troyes and Châtillon, the brand has bet on health, playing even more on the service offered to customers, their well-being and their search for “positive health”. In this regard, it should be noted that Monoprix generalized, in June 2021, the sale in its stores of CBD-based products, innovative products “that contribute to daily well-being”.
Of all the moccasins mentioned above, the Monoprix moccasin is perhaps the most archetypal of its time. He wanders, often alone, between the crockery department where he hesitates to spend ten euros for a ceramic cup, the result of a collaboration with a young fashion designer, and the food department, craving a buddha bowl nicely presented in a kraft tray and roasted vegetable salad. He confronts another example, less of a stroller than a sprinter, the one we also meet in London’s Mark & Spencer and New York’s Whole Foods. This hasty citizen, who has less than three minutes to choose the dish to take away that he will have to swallow in less than fifteen, and who appreciates the very wide opening hours of these shops. The same customer can also alternate between one and the other, depending on the day of the week or the time of day (sprinter on Tuesday at 12:30, flâneur on Saturday at 18). It is also this double nature that very often seduces. The upper-class resident who frequents a Monoprix never goes “shopping”. No, he goes “to Monop”, he has the of him (and often also the one near his workplace), he knows the traffic perfectly and he spent his rare moments of conviviality there during the confinements of 2020 and 2021.
You will also be able to meet him in the organic shops that are now multiplying in the big cities. In 2008 Monoprix bought the Naturalia chain of organic shops. The brand itself is available in the sub-concepts: Naturalia Vegan and Naturalia Origines, stores dedicated to wellness and alternative medicine. In the four Parisian shops (in the very irritated 9And and 11And districts and the most family-friendly 15And and 17And), naturopaths and dieticians welcome an urban clientele expert in alternative medicine and offer food supplements, essential oils, “herbal bars” and “superfoods”. Last May the brand inaugurated its premiere flagship in Boulogne-Billancourt. On three levels and 450m2 you will obviously find all organic food products, but also a floor entirely dedicated to cosmetics and well-being, or even “Zen and yoga workshops”. For the sociologist Vincent Chabault, author of a much noted Keep praise in 2020, the very choice of the term flagship, borrowed from the world of luxury, marks a further step in the premiumization of these brands. It also reveals the need for these players to no longer limit themselves to their “shop” status, a status significantly weakened by the covid crisis and online sales (the former very clearly accelerated the rise of the latter). The shop must therefore reinvent itself. And this reinvention seems, inexorably, to go through hybridization and premiumization.
The symbolic function of the shop
Let’s now take a detour along a path that is much more difficult to understand, but still central to understanding what is at stake in the evolution of distribution today. If these brands are still resisting food deliveries (in 2021, according to IRI data, almost 20% of daily shopping is done online, with an increase of 38% in two years – in the food segment alone, the evolution is more than 50 % in two years), their market function alone is not enough to explain this. What is at stake in visiting these shops is also a symbolic and social dimension, which it would be wrong to underestimate. It depends on several elements. For Vincent Chabault, “it is by visiting a particular store that the customer builds his identity as a consumer. Consumption remains ostentatious, but in a reversal of values. Down: the accumulation and display of purchasing power; increasing: parental and environmental responsibility (good for oneself, for those around us and then for the planet). This choice of presences therefore has an eminently symbolic function, in particular with regard to organic shops: in these “organic” supermarkets, consumers give the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to local and sustainable agriculture, fair trade and rights. some animals. “Going to Monoprix is also a sign of belonging to a certain social class, which cares less about a” bound “or” necessary “basket but is more dedicated desirable : decorations, clothes and even books. From “essential” trade (a qualification that the public authorities have kindly granted them during the health emergency), they have become places of pilgrimage and pleasure, where you enter without always knowing what you are looking for there, like in a bookshop (which did not immediately benefit from the precious qualification).
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