Carrefour China at another crossroad

The company says it is optimizing its supply chain to offer more choices. But for now, shelves are empty, and Carrefour wants you pay with real money.

Photo from CFP

Photo from CFP

By ZHAO Xiaojuan

 

On a chilly Beijing Sunday morning, an old lady went to a downtown Carrefour with gift cards worth 4,000 yuan (US$590). She bought three pans, two mops, a pillow and a pack of sausage with the cards. She planned to put them away at home and make another round, to spend all the cards.

“You know something is not right when the scalpers are not taking Carrefour cards,” she said.

A scalper said that he stopped taking Carrefour cards in December. “They are just useless plastic if I can't sell them out,” he told Jiemian News.

Many customers have taken to social media to complain that some branches refused to accept gift cards, and many shelves were empty, so is Carrefour in some kind of trouble?

According to the retailer: “The company is optimizing its supply chain to offer customers more diverse choices. We hope our customers won’t listen to rumors.”

 “Carrefour is going bust,” rumors result in more panic gift card shopping. 

A shop in Beijing didn’t accept Jiemian News’ gift cards because it is having a “system upgrade.” The shelves of the butchery department were empty, though the rest of the operation seemed normal, but with big signs around the checkouts informing customers some (most) products could not be bought with gift cards.

At the cashier, customers formed long queues. Each shopping cart was packed. As the queue advanced, goods that couldn’t be bought with gift cards were offloaded amid restive murmurings.

Suning.com, which owns Carrefour’s business in China, said the retailer didn’t open a single new outlet but closed 24 in the first half of 2022. In Q3, it closed another 54, with only 151 stores left in China. It has quit major cities including Hangzhou, Chengdu, Fuzhou and Jinan.

Suning.com said Carrefour was the main reason why the company lost money. In 2021, Suning.com reported a stunning loss of 43 billion yuan.

Carrefour entered China in 1995, and did very well for a while but was already in decline when Suning.com took it over in 2019. In that year alone, Carrefour lost 304 million yuan.