Carrefour Taps CEO for Digital Makeover -- WSJ

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 he has been credited with turning around the book, music and electronics retailer's online operations.

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. The French-based company'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 online where they can 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.

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.

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Mr. Plassat took the helm of Carrefour in 2012 as the retailer was trying to overcome years of declining sales and strategic missteps. He shrank the company's global footprint, pulling out of a number of markets. In France, he focused on Carrefour's pricing strategy, cutting back on promotional sales and keeping prices low throughout the year, while investing heavily in an overhaul of its stores.

At Fnac, Mr. Bompard quickly established himself 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 French-based company, whose main markets also include Spain, Belgium and Brazil, 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 keep its customers from straying. He committed to matching competitors' prices and brought prices in line with Amazon's. Fnac also increased advantages for its most loyal clients, while using data mining to target them. It also improved its website and mobile app.

At the same time, Fnac used its brick-and-mortar network to its advantage by asking vendors including Samsung Electronics Co. and Apple Inc. 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.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 10, 2017 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)