The social divide is increasingly felt in mass consumption

Published on 14 Jan. 2022 at 7: 1970

Some theorize the social divide. Others are already seeing a fracture in the French consumer bloc. In December, the least expensive brands, Lidl, Aldi and Leclerc, won the most customers, despite the carefree holiday season. The two networks of German origin will soon total 10% of the large food retail market, i.e. as much as the pioneer Auchan.

With the Breton Leclerc which dominates the sector, it is a third of the sales of everyday products which are now made by followers of the lowest prices. And that’s without taking into account new concepts, such as that of the Dutch Action, which have been very successful, like the Irish Primark in the world of fashion.

The trends seen before the health crisis are confirmed. The Covid played commercial particle accelerators. The stream of consumers splits in two. On the one hand, those who don’t really have a purchasing power problem and who continue to move towards more responsible consumption. These are the organic buyers, those who “premiumize” their basket, as the panelists say, by buying a little less and a little more expensive.

Soft discounters

On the other side, gather the French who are within ten euros when they push their cart. From years 1970 to years 2000, they rubbed shoulders with the wealthiest on the shelves of the large hypermarkets which offered all the range of prices: from first prices to national brands via private labels. Carrefour, Leclerc, Auchan and others had succeeded in diverting them from the German hard-discounters Aldi and Lidl who were tumbling into our countryside and our cities. The most modest were not attracted by austere stores that sent them back to their condition.

The codes have changed. Hard-discounters have become soft discounters by welcoming a few national brands on their stalls, refining their fruit and vegetable stands and embellishing their decor. This was Lidl’s strategy, which Aldi is now following. At the same time, weakened by the drying up of their non-food shelves by Amazon and others, hypermarkets struggled to keep their prices low. This marked the end of “everyone under the same roof” in the words of expert Philippe Goetzmann. The consumer has become plural.