Retail

French Grocers Use Automation To Get Around Labor Laws

French Grocers Use Automation To Skirt Labor Laws

Grocery group Casino Guichard Perrachon, along with its rival Carrefour, have been experimenting with keeping select stores open even after their employees go home.

The move helps both retailers get around laws that prevent grocers of all sizes from making employees work late-night hours or on Sunday afternoons. Casino Guichard Perrachon is keeping 200 stores open after employees leave, with self-checkout machines taking over. And Carrefour has also started testing the same idea in Paris with a market that is open 24/7.

As Bloomberg explained, the stores lock their liquor cabinets and close meat counters and cheese-cutting stations while shoppers peruse other areas of the store. Security guards roam the aisles to keep an eye out for shoplifters.

“We’re responding to customer demand,” said Alexandre de Palmas, director of Carrefour’s convenience store division. He added that hundreds of shoppers show up during the late-night hours and there is more traffic earlier in the evening, “because people aren’t worried the shop will be closed when they get there.”

Casino reported that a hypermarket in Angers, two hours outside of Paris, sees more than 1,000 customers on a typical Sunday afternoon, about as many as during the morning shift staffed by clerks.

While French unions say the rules are necessary so that workers get time off and aren’t exploited, the country’s retailers argue they need to stay open for longer hours to remain competitive with online rivals. “The internet has changed the game, and we have to adapt,” said Sebastien Corrado, marketing director for the Casino group, which launched its program last December. “We’re finding a way for physical retail to compete.”

Of course, the unions don’t see it that way. “Sunday should be for rest, for spending time with friends and family,” said Joanny Poncet, a union representative at Casino’s Franprix chain. “There’s no reason consumers can’t plan ahead and shop another time.”

However, Cedric Lecasble, an analyst at MainFirst Bank AG, noted that moves toward automation will happen regardless of a store’s hours. “As consumers get used to making smaller, more frequent purchases, and with eCommerce making it so they can shop whenever they wish, it’s hard to envision that the unions will be able to block this forever.”

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