Carrefour Taps New CEO For Digital Makeover -- 2nd Update

By Nick Kostov Features Dow Jones Newswires

Carrefour SA named Alexandre Bompard as its next chief executive Friday, tapping someone who has gone toe-to-toe with Amazon.com Inc. to help close its e-commerce gap.

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Carrefour, Europe's largest retailer, said current Chief Executive Georges Plassat would step aside next month.

Mr. Bompard, 44 years old, has been chief executive of Fnac Darty, where and he is credited with turning around the online operations of the books, music and electronics retailer.

Carrefour is a brick-and-mortar behemoth that has struggled to compete with more nimble retailers online as well as smaller shops that are more conveniently located and price-competitive. Carrefour's main format is the hypermarket -- sprawling warehouses that sell everything from baguettes to bicycles. That model has fallen out of favor as clientele migrate to retailers like Amazon that let them shop with the swipe of a finger.

"Mr. Bompard adds the potential to improve their digital capability and increase the flexibility between online and offline " said Cedric Lecasble, analyst at Raymond James.

Mr. Plassat took the helm of Carrefour in 2012 after the retailer endured years of declining sales and strategic missteps. He slashed the company's global footprint, pulling out of a number of markets. In France, he focused efforts on Carrefour's price strategy, cutting back on sales and keeping prices low throughout the year, while investing heavily in an overhaul of its stores.

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At Fnac, Mr. Bompard quickly built a solid reputation by leading a digital transformation and cutting costs. He took the company public in 2013 and won a bidding war for white goods retailer Darty last year. That allowed the company to build scale and better compete with large e-commerce companies. Fnac shares have nearly tripled in value since its listing.

Mr. Bompard's first priority at Fnac was to stop his shoppers going elsewhere. He committed to matching competitors' prices and brought prices in line with Amazon's. At the same time, Fnac also focused on its most loyal clients, increasing their advantages and using data mining to target them. It also improved its website and mobile app.

Fnac also used its network of brick-and-mortar stores to its advantage, asking vendors including Samsung and Apple to set up their own branded areas in the shops. Mr. Bompard knew that his suppliers wanted Fnac to do well, particularly as a showroom for their higher-end products.

"He increased ties with the main suppliers, knowing that the two have common interests," said Mr. Lecasble.

Carrefour had been searching since late last year for a successor to Mr. Plassat, 68, whose mandate as Chairman and CEO was due to expire in May 2018.

Write to Nick Kostov at Nick.Kostov@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 09, 2017 12:09 ET (16:09 GMT)