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In Charente, a self-service supermarket to revitalize a village

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published on Saturday, December 10, 2022 at 3:55 p.m.

Basket in hand, Janine Roy helps herself to butter and yoghurt while her husband Yves waits at the checkout without a salesperson… not from a supermarket, but from the self-service convenience store in their village of Claix, in Charente .

Janine goes there every two days, because “the grandmother lives nearby, she often needs something”, explains this sixty-year-old who comes to do the shopping for her mother when she returns from her morning walk.

Usually, the couple gets supplies at La Couronne, about ten minutes away by car. But since mid-November, Claix and its approximately 1,000 inhabitants have once again had their own business, a 40 m² wooden mobile home, set up next to the vines.

Its particularity: no regular seller, but a place accessible seven days a week via a personal QR code, on the phone or card, which also allows you to activate the cash register.

The idea germinated in the minds of Julien Nau and Alex Grammatico, founders of the Api company and inhabitants of the region, after discovering a similar service in Sweden.

– “Everything at your fingertips” –

“We said to ourselves that it was a need for the majority of the municipalities that we knew”, at a time when “there are fewer and fewer services” in rural areas, develops Alex Grammatico.

According to him, out of 36,500 French municipalities, 23,500 have no food trade.

On the shelves of the Claix convenience store, customers can find around 700 references, 70% of which are distributed by Carrefour, at prices comparable to those charged in supermarkets, but also eggs or pasta supplied by local producers.

“It’s good for slightly older people who have everything close at hand,” agrees Josianne Rouhaud, a 68-year-old retiree who lives 300 meters from the shop.

“It avoids going very far and it’s done quickly,” says Michel Augeard, 79, who struggles a bit to use the automatic cash register, but who is helped by Valérie, the manager.

“We accompany them so that they are not lost and we also create this social bond which is essential”, underlines this former experienced employee of the large distribution.

– 40 other convenience stores in 2023 –

It is she who takes care of the orders, the management of the deliveries and the supply of the store. Without having to be there all day.

Bread depot with neglected seller, small grocery store project abandoned because the building was too expensive to build… Claix town hall struggled for a long time unsuccessfully to bring the town back to life.

This time, it was only necessary to provide a plot of at least 100m² and an electrical connection for a total investment of around 2,000 euros.

“People explain to me that they have changed their habits. There will always be the races of the month next door, but for the daily worker, that’s enough”, rejoices the mayor, Dominique Pérez.

“There are many who say that the contact is missing, but if there are several of us in the store, there are”, adds a customer.

After Claix, the Api company plans to install 40 new self-service mini-markets in the region in 2023, with one manager for five stores, then to develop in the rest of France if it is successful.

Josianne Rouhaud would now like “a small vegetable market, that would be great”.

For the moment, a producer of hamburgers and a nail technician will settle in the same place.

“It may be luck, but we had never seen that,” concludes Dominique Pérez.

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