Action, Normal, Stokomani, PrimaPrix… Does “soft discount” mean anything to you?
On December 20, Spanish discount brand PrimaPrix opened its third store on French soil, in Meaux, on Seine-et-Marne. Just a little over a month earlier, on November 9 and 10, the first two opened in Pontault-Combault (Seine-et-Marne) and Montreuil (Seine-Saint-Denis). But the Spaniard isn’t the only one in the landscape. Action, Normal, Stokomani, Noz: for several years, “soft discounters” have developed both in the city and in commercial areas on the outskirts. And consumers responded. In 2021, more than 11 billion euros will be spent in discount-destocking stores, according to marketing analysis firm IRI.
Food, hygiene, decor, ready-to-wear, the credo of these brands is simple: offer mass distribution products at knockdown prices. An attractive offer when the portfolio is harmed by the effects of inflation. But what exactly do these Ali Baba cave-like shops sell? What sets them apart from classic retailers? And most importantly, to what do they owe their success? 20 Minutes stroll the shelves to find out more.
What will you find in these shops?
First of all, these “soft discounters” have in common that they offer low-cost brands. Cheap, or cheaper than in a regular supermarket. At Action Netherlands, you’ll find everything from cleaning to decor, including ready-to-wear clothes, a drugstore, and a bit of “dry” food. At French Noz (more than 300 stores in France) and Stokmani (more than 130 stores), the offerings are much the same, the big brands aside from the latter. All announced about 20% cheaper than in supermarkets.
The Spanish PrimaPrix is like a small supermarket. “He wanted to differentiate himself from Action or Stokomani (…) through the prism of mostly consumer goods,” explains Olivier Dauvers, retail expert, in one of his articles devoted to the brand. Therefore, you will be able to find some new shelves, such as Carrefour Contact or Franprix. But in terms of price, “Leclerc is still cheaper, because it is 7 to 8% cheaper than its competitors, explained the expert to 20 minutes. From what I’ve seen, the PrimaPrix is about 5% cheaper.”
Finally, for hygiene and beauty, you can use Normal light. You will find famous brands and references – L’Oréal, Nivéa, Maybelline, Aussie, Garnier, Head & Shoulders, in particular. The Danish brand, which claims 30 to 50% price reductions compared to major retailers, has about sixty points of sale in France.
What business model are they based on?
Whether it’s Action, Stokmani or Noz, the “business model” is the same: destocking. To successfully sell toys, toothpaste, dresses, candy or housewares at low prices, these brands employ buyers – or intermediaries – to negotiate directly with the brands. Overstock, end of draw, order cancellation or unsold stock are all opportunities for these negotiators. This explains why the product assortment on the shelves changes regularly.
The story is slightly different in Normal. The Danish brand has a permanent assortment. “We make sure to have the same product all year round at a fixed price, with several new products every week,” says Sébastien Chirouze, sales director for the brand. PrimaPrix, on the other hand, “offers destocking while maintaining brand image”, asserts Olivier Dauvers to 20 minutes. And the brand “does very little marketing, no sales, no promotions, no loyalty cards,” according to the sales manager. “That helps control prices”.
How do they attract their customers?
“When Action offered an iPhone cable for 1 euro, it said to its customers: “can you imagine how much your euro is worth to me? ”, suggests Olivier Dauvers. Consumers love to be made rich. This promise is getting louder given the economic situation, with more than 6% inflation in one year in consumer products, according to INSEE. At the newly arrived PrimaPrix, it is the “halo” effect that attracts customers. “If many products have more attractive than average prices but the reductions are not large, the others are really selling”, notes the expert. For example, glassware Mir costs 1 euro instead of 1.49 euros in other supermarkets. “Average bids are not going to motivate a move, but if we add in a good offer it will.”
Stokomani, PrimaPrix or Normal target brand-loving consumers. And on the last two, the store experience worked. “There is a reassuring side to customers: music, colors, funny panels, big brands that carry a “treasure hunt” effect. The experience is pleasant compared to hard-discounts”, concludes Sébastien Chirouze.