COMMERCE Api aims to set up 600 autonomous and connected convenience stores in the heart of French villages over the next five years
The API convenience stores installed in mobile homes in rural areas will offer 700 product references. — API
- Api is a new convenience store concept, installed in a 40 m2 mobile home and open 24/7, which aims to revitalize the rural sector.
- Entry to the store is via a QR code generated by an application, and each store will offer 700 product references.
- A manager for five stores will nevertheless ensure a human presence at fixed times, to exchange with the customers and accompany them if necessary.
Rise in the price of fuel, rise in teleworking, democratization of digital… Director General Marie-Laure Basset acknowledges this: there is an “alignment of the planets” when launching Api, a new concept of autonomous and connected mini-market in rural areas, the idea of which was imported from Sweden.
Imagined; by Julien Nau, Alex Grammatico and Jean Luc Treillou, Api opened its first point of sale a few days ago in; Claix (Charente). The ambition is to reinvent the convenience store. “We can continue to dream, but the traditional model of the village grocery store no longer works, analyzes Marie-Laure Basset, so another solution must be found to revitalize the rural sector.” And this idea is a 40 m2 mobile home offering 700 product references, accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week thanks to a QR code which allows the doors to be opened, with payment by credit card.
Agronomic engineer, Marie-Laure Basset passed; twenty-five years in the food industry, an environment she knows inside out, through her experiences at Marie (cooked meals) and Room Saveurs (delivery of meal trays for companies) ). She quickly concluded that Api’s idea could only work by leaning on the heavyweights, and achieving economies of scale.
“We are in partnership with one of the leaders in the manufacture of mobile homes, and with Carrefour for the products, because it very quickly became clear to us that to supply these stores, we needed a major player. distribution capable of managing supply and logistics up to each point of sale. We also need affordable prices, because this is one of the failure factors of village grocery stores, which are often forced to charge higher prices than in supermarkets. ”
Targeted municipalities must have a minimum of 750 inhabitants
After the first store opens, “we want to set up the stores in clusters of five, which is more interesting from a logistical point of view. This will allow us to maintain an economically viable convenience store model.” Api is first targeting Charente and Charente-Maritime, “and our goal is to set up forty of them in New Aquitaine by then. end of 2023, and 600 in France within five years.”
The targeted municipalities must have at least 750 inhabitants, not already be equipped with a convenience store, and located at half an hour round trip minimum from a large area. “Obviously we will not replace the supermarket, but in this period of high inflation, especially of fuel, our idea is to participate in this. the defense of purchasing power.” A building permit must be filed; for the installation of the mobile home, “and we ask the town hall to make land available to us, but we just need an electricity connection, not even a water point.”
””The offer could be ;evolve according to the stores”
These will be stand-alone stores, “in the sense that we want to make people independent: they can come on a Saturday evening to 10 p.m. without anyone's help.” But a human presence will still be assured, with the hiring of a manager for five stores. “He will be in every convenience store in town. fixed hours, and will have in its missions to exchange with the customers, and to accompany them, in particular in the creation of the account which generates the QR code, because even if this one s’ is generalized to thanks to the Covid-19 crisis, it remains a subject of digital divide in the rural world”, admits Marie-Laure Basset.
In terms of products, each store will cover all departments. “We offer a large fresh linear, frozen, fruits and vegetables, drinks but not alcohol, hygiene products, for animals… The offer may change depending on the stores: if we are at proximity from main roads to heavy traffic, maybe we will have a very strong offer on snacking, which will be of no interest elsewhere. And we will also complement our products with local producers.”
Eventually, the chain hopes to be able to offer other services, “such as a parcel pick-up point or partnerships with the sector medical, with the idea of recreating a village square.” Api is aiming for a turnover of 200,000 euros per store and per year, profitability to be achieved “ from over 100 stores.