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French Company Opens Its First Asian Outlet

BEIJING - Europe's biggest fresh food supermarket operator, Champion, introduced a new form of business here yesterday with the opening of its first Asian outlet, according to China Daily.

Located in South Beijing's busy residential area of Jinsong, the supermarket covers almost 3,000 square metres.

Champion's president, Phillipe Pauze, said that the stores differed from the hypermarkets run by the company's parent firm, Carrefour. "Champion supermarkets are specifically engaged in providing various fresh foods, including vegetables, fruits, meat, seafood, and snacks, to the customers, so our chain stores are all set up in residential communities," explained Pauze, who is also g.m. of Carrefour's supermarket group.

Champion is highly experienced in the storage, selection, and distribution of foods, as well as in food safety supervision. According to Pauze, "As an arm of the Carrefour Group, we share purchasing resources with Carrefour, which may guarantee a price advantage in every Champion supermarket."

Champion joined up with local chain Beijing Shoulian to run the Beijing store, with Champion and Shoulian taking 65 per cent and 35 percent stakes, respectively, in the venture.

Pauze said Champion chose Beijing as the location of the company's first Asian outlet because of China's huge market potential, the nation's growing demand for safe and high-quality food, and the commercial possibilities of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Beijing's municipal government wants to speed up the development of commercial services in residential communities by opening 500 convenience stores and supermarkets this year. By the close of last September, 1,566 such shops had opened in Beijing, but that figure only covers 65 percent of the city's residential neighborhoods.

"There is a lot of space left for my firm, since there are still no professional food chain retailers operating in Beijing," said Pauze, who acknowledges, however, that competition will be stiff, as challenges from both foreign and domestic retailers and fast-food restaurants arise.

In Beijing, by the end of last year, there were 4,277 chain stores, among them hypermarkets, supermarkets, and convenience stores, whose sales volume made up 24.2 percent of the city's retailing sector, according to sources with the Beijing Commerce Bureau. Around 85 percent of the fresh food eaten by Beijing residents is bought in agricultural markets.

"We believe our reliable goods, competitive prices and pleasing environment are lucrative," Pauze said. "Furthermore, we have conducted research on the habits and tastes of local consumers, meaning we will adjust our food structure, counter layout, and management style to adopt to the local market."

The opening of the Jinsong store brings the number of the French company's fresh food supermarkets to 2,292 in 10 countries, with a business area of more than of 1.5 million square meters and an annual sales volume of US $12.05 billion.
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