E-COMMERCE: Auchan to Launch Online Supermarket in Poland

20 Jun 2011 • by Natalie Aster

Although online groceries are currently a tiny niche in Poland's rapidly expanding e-commerce sector, a growing number of players are willing to test their luck in this business.

With the Poles working the longest hours in Europe and large cities, such as Warsaw and Wroclaw, winning top places in European traffic congestion rankings, online shopping becomes an increasingly popular hassle-free way of restocking family refrigerators.

So far the sector has been dominated by local upscale supermarket chains, including Bomi, Alma, and Piotr i Pawel, with the latter expecting its e-commerce turnover in the Warsaw area to come in excess of PLN 25m this year, following a 50% y/y growth in the first four months of 2011. A few months ago Britain's Tesco confirmed plans for an e-store in Poland, but while the Brits are still mulling over details, France's Auchan is almost ready to launch its Auchan Direct project and it looks like they are very serious about it.

"We have decided to set up a dedicated distribution centre to handle the future e-commerce operations, in order to keep our regular stores and the online business separate," Auchan's Dorota Patejko tells news2biz. "We intend to launch the test version of the online store by mid-2011."

Initially Auchan's e-supermarket will be delivering to seven districts in south & central Warsaw and its burgeoning satellite town of Piaseczno, which in recent CEE residential property rankings has been listed as a market larger than any of the Baltic capitals. Piaseczno was the location of Auchan's first Polish hypermarket, opened 15 years ago, and this is where the French retailer will This sets Auchan apart from the likes of Piotr i Pawel or Alma, which deliver goods from their regular stores. Auchan Direct will carry some 6,000 items, mainly grocery products. Deliveries will be handled daily, in the afternoons and evenings.

Over the coming 1-2 years Auchan will focus on Warsaw, before expanding its e-commerce project to other Polish cities. As a familyowned company, they can afford to take time and set long-term goals, unlike their listed competitors.

Currently Auchan operates 26 hypermarket-anchored shopping centers, as well as 23 petrol stations and three distribution centers in Poland. After more than 10 years of waiting, the company has been greenlighted to build a 50,000-sq.m retail centre in Krakow-Bronowice, which is to open in 1. years with some 160 retail units. An undertaking of similar scale is being planned in Piaseczno. Over the past 15 years Auchan has created more than 10,000 jobs and invested in excess of PLN 4bn in Poland. Last year its Polish shops turned over some PLN 6.25bn.

According to Euromonitor, last year Polish customers spent an estimated PLN 250m in online stores on food and beverages, and this year the sector is expected to grow by 17%. There are approximately 200 e-shops selling food in Poland, most of which are highly specialized niche outlets, focused on tea or coffee. The group of customers, who do their grocery shopping online more or less regularly is said to include some 40,000 people, some 15,000 of whom are based in the Warsaw area.

A price comparison website, focusing on online groceries, has just been launched, monitoring prices in 15 supermarkets, including seven based in Warsaw.

The above news abstract has been taken from a bi-weekly newsletter to professionals doing business in Poland "news2biz - Poland".

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