[FrenchFounders Guest] Cathy Collart Geiger, C.E.O. of Picard

Exclusive interview with Cathy Collart Geiger, Picard's C.E.O. as a guest at the last FrenchFounders meeting in Paris. She explains her ambitions for the group's growth.

Through Sophie Baqué. Published on 02 November 2022 à 11h32 - Update on 02 November 2022 à 15h32

For many retailers, the structural decline in store traffic calls into question the viability of the footprint. What is the situation at Picard?

C.C: When I took over the frozen food retailer Picard in March 2020, there were 1,000 stores. The company had been growing by 0.6% for 6 years, with a declining customer base. This was in a frozen food market that was also declining, with costs increasing by 1% to 2% per year. I have set a roadmap to go from €1.5 billion in sales in 2020 to €2 billion in 2026, i.e. up by 30% in 5 years. I began by taking stock of the company, teams and customers. Among the latter, two issues came up. Non-consumers said in the feedback: “I don’t go to Picard if the store is more than 15 or 20 minutes away, so as not to risk my products thawing”. They also perceived Picard as a relatively expensive and Parisian store. In terms of buying, the studies reported a frequency of about 7.5 purchases per year. However, this encompassed two different realities. 30% of customers came once a year and 35% came 25 times a year. My action plan includes working on winning new customers and raising buying frequency, amongst other things.

What is the balance sheet at the end of 2022?

C.C: Turnover is up by 12% compared to 2020. We have not seen a drop in store traffic. Total customer recruitment is equivalent to 2020. The proportion of new customers under 30 years of age is almost twice that of existing customers. Finally, our omnichannel customers have increased by 5%. This is a strategic point, given that these omnichannel customers spend twice as much as other customers.

With margins eroding due to inflation, how can a chain under LBO open stores?

C.C: An LBO creates constant pressure on margins and profitability. As I said, the priority was to win back old customers and add new ones. In terms of store coverage, we have identified 200 new stores in France. These are mainly in the French regions as major cities are already covered. In 2020, we opened 19, then 30 in 2021. This year, we will finish 2022 with nearly 40 openings, half of which will be franchises. In France, we revisited the franchising model, which allows us to expand quickly without carrying the entire investment. We have gone from 10 franchised stores in 2020 to almost 40 today. We created a more balanced model for all stakeholders and closely examine profile of candidates. We may have previously recruited first-time entrepreneurs who generally managed a Picard store. Today we recruit people with solid backgrounds. We have entrusted franchises to Intermarché, Leclerc or Système U members, who wanted to boost their catchment area. In 2023, we intend to open 50% of stores as franchises.

The Picard stores are now closed in Switzerland and Belgium. What opportunities do you see internationally, as you spent 3 years with Auchan in China?

C.C: Until 2020, these international stores were exactly the same as in France. However, in other countries, the Picard brand is unknown. The very concept of a frozen food store does not exist. After Switzerland and Belgium, I am closing the last stores in Sweden and Norway.
We are approaching the international market in a different way, with corners in stores that are already well established. The idea is to come up with an additional commercial proposal. The financial commitment is less, which allows for rapid expansion, without Capex. To date, Picard is present in 18 countries in corners, offline and online. For instance, we are present with Ocado in the U.K., with Marks & Spencer in the U.A.E. and Hong Kong, with RT Mart in Taiwan (note: Auchan’s former Chinese joint venture partner), plus with Redmart in Singapore. For the moment, we export our French products, with classics like baguette or macaroons. We add local adaptations. In Taiwan, Brussels sprouts are a best seller! The next step will be to develop specific products for these countries.

Key figures

  • 2020 turnover: up by 15% (vs. market up by 8%)
  • 2021 turnover: €1.5 billion (no change vs. market fall of 2%)