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Amazon has French grocery stores in its sights, too

A customer search in an aisle in a grocery store in Paris, France, April 11, 2016.
Reuters/Philippe Wojazer
When you can’t stay home.
By Steve Mollman
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

When Amazon acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion last June, it wreaked havoc on a US grocery industry already struggling with slim margins. Now the retail giant has its eyes on France’s grocers.

Over the weekend, Amazon France head Frederic Duval told newspaper Journal du Dimanche that the company aims to launch (link in French) a grocery delivery service in the country, though he offered no details on timing or potential partners. “We would very much like to launch this service in France, but everything in its own time,” he told the paper. “A launch represents an investment.”

Last month Amazon launched free two-hour grocery delivery to Amazon Prime members in four US test cities, a service it plans to take nationwide by year’s end. US grocers have been scrambling to offer competing services, some by partnering with online grocery-delivery startup Instacart.

Following the Whole Foods deal, speculation quickly arose that Amazon might aim for Europe next. France’s grocers have been paying attention.

Last month, Serge Papin, CEO of French supermarket operator Systeme U, said his company was discussing a grocery supply deal with Amazon, and suggested rivals were as well. Another supermarket retailer seen as a potential Amazon partner is Leclerc, which in January said it will launch a food delivery service in Paris this year.

That same month Carrefour announced a tie-up with France’s post office to expand its one-hour grocery delivery service, now offered in Paris, to 10 new cities across the country. But the struggling French retailer also announced a loss for 2017, and promised an overhaul that included some 2,400 job cuts in France.

Amazon last month settled a tax dispute with French authorities and said it would add 2,000 jobs (paywall) in sorting and distribution centers, as well as in delivery. That would bring its employee headcount in France to over 7,500.

Of course, one of the charms of Paris is an abundance of small grocery stores with quirky layouts and things rarely found in US supermarket chains, like a dizzying array of tomato varieties. Amazon can surely bring greater efficiency and convenience, but that, many would argue, wouldn’t necessarily be better.

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