The Carrefour Effect

SEMINYAK ~ Like an industrial-sized vacuum cleaner, French retail giant Carrefour has sucked up customers from long-established grocers around town and is setting a new trend on the island, forcing laissez-faire retainers to upgrade or die by the wayside.

The world’s second-largest retailer opened its doors in Bali in late April and since then its cavernous complex on Jl. Sunset Road in Kuta has been brimming with locals and expatriates seeking the rock-bottom bargains only such a Goliath can provide.

One of Kuta’s shopping institutions, Bintang supermarket in Seminyak, told The Bali Times this week it had seen a circa-30-percent drop-off in customers since Carrefour’s arrival on the scene, and in a bid to woo punters back to the store would be installing air conditioners, in place of ceiling fans.

The store would also be increasing the number of imported food items, manager Tjokorde Gde Sunu Putra said, adding that around 80 percent of Bintang’s customers were expatriates and tourists

“Whenever a new competitor comes, the portion for each supermarket gets less and less. I’m sure everyone feels the impact of this,” he said.

At the nearby, more upscale Bali Deli, business was also down during Carrefour’s opening but has recovered, according to office manager Faegha Ferdian.

“In the first few days that Carrefour was open we saw a decrease in business, but after that it recovered,” she said.

Bali Deli also features a cafe popular with the mainly expatriate clientele and had recently introduced a new menu, said Ferdian, adding that the store had widened its variety of imported food.

At Alfa supermarket on Jl. Imam Bonjol, around the corner from Carrefour, customers were few and far between at the weekend, a Bali Times reporter observed.

A sales promotion girl who gave her name as Uci said business had fallen off dramatically in recent weeks.

“It’s quieter now. On Saturdays and Sundays we used to have a lot of people coming in, mostly women and children. Now you can count them,” she said.

Not all customers are swayed by Carrefour, however.

For civil servant Ray Wijaya from Jimbaran, supporting the French hypermarket means small-scale grocers go out of business.

“Carrefour is interesting, because it’s new. But we have to stop building new supermarkets. We can’t afford to have any more giant retailers. A lot of my friends are in the same business, but on a much smaller scale, and this kind of retailer hurts them.”

A shopper at Alfa, Rosida, said she had tried Carrefour and was not impressed, chiefly because of the hordes of people it attracted.

“I’ve been shopping at Alfa for a long time. I’ve tried shopping at Carrefour, but I don’t like it. It’s too crowded there,” she said.

Agoes Alfa from Surabaya, visiting Bali for the long weekend, said he was a loyal Carrefour customer.

“Carrefour has complete stock and is cheaper than other supermarkets. Before Carrefour opened in Surabaya, I used to shop at Hero (supermarket),” he said.

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