the city center in search of a new lease of life

the city center in search of a new lease of life

After betting everything on the outskirts, brands are now trying to reclaim the heart of cities.

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Should we reinvest in the heart of the city? This question, many traders ask themselves. Large retailers have already taken this turn. A group like Crossroads, the leading food distribution network under franchise with nearly 4,000 stores, has been spreading various brands in the city for a long time: Contact, City, Express, Montagne, Proxi. Others, with a more modest network, are trying it today.

This is the case of Baker multimedia and household appliances, currently in the test phase with an open franchise in the city center. An initiative on which the head of the network remains cautious and does not wish to communicate officially yet.

It is true that the commercial vacancy rate in the city centre, which stands at 11%, does not necessarily invite optimism. “No average drop in annual rent is observed in the city center, regardless of the vacancy rate, observes the federation for the promotion of specialized trade (Procos). The lower the vacancy rate, the faster the annual rent increases, and, unfortunately, much faster than the turnover.”

Discouraging? Not for everybody! Franchisee Easy Cash in the city center of Lyon (Rhône), but also on the outskirts, Frédéric Lesueur is at the head of the store whose annual sales amount to 4.5 million euros. “We are the largest in terms of turnover but also the smallest in area”he testifies.

Here, unlike the stores he operates on the outskirts, he doesn’t offer a TV: it’s a cheap, low-margin item that takes up too much space. He favors telephony, which represents 40% of sales. This choice is guided by the need to achieve a significant turnover per square meter, while rental charges are by nature higher in the city.

A neighborhood store

“We are responding to a need for proximity with customers who have become economical in their travels, especially since 2020, analyzes Frédéric Lesueur. It is striking. We have been based in downtown Lyon since 2011, but our turnover has doubled over the past two years. On the other hand, the margin rate is a little lower than in the periphery. We have to think about the offer differently.”

On the strength of this success, Easy Cash is working to deploy in metropolitan areas where the catchment area is large enough to attract a different clientele from that encountered on the outskirts. “The balance is subtle, because, for us, the workforce is correlated to the turnover; not at the sales area”, explains Jérôme Taufflieb, CEO of Easy Cash. In view of the Lyon experiment, the network has reduced the number of families of products offered in the city center by eliminating the bulkiest ones.

Another brand, another lesson… The seller and installer of made-to-measure curtains Heytens approached city centers in 2018, more than twenty years after the creation of its first franchise in a peripheral commercial area. “In a general way, emphasizes Sylvaine Poyé, development manager at Heytens, our products and our profession correspond well to the city center clientele. In the big cities, it brings us closer to her and facilitates appointments at home.

While the concept of the store, in the case of Heytens, is in no way changed depending on its location, some brands offer their franchisees à la carte layouts depending on the economic fabric and the sociology of the location.

By opening their Comptoir de la bio in Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine), in a residential area close to the CHU, Vanessa Panatier-Mabille and Julien de Almeida decided to install a snack corner to meet the demand of the staff of the hospital, patients and visiting families.

Their commercial offer also meets the expectations of the students who live in the residence overlooking their shop as well as those of the surrounding population. This formula, apart from the network, registers these merchants in a hybrid dynamic: their Comptoir de la bio is not really in the city center, without being on the outskirts. It is a neighborhood store that meets the expectations of its inhabitants.

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