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Carrefour sees 10% jump in turnover amid ongoing Delhaize strike

09:32 28/04/2023

Carrefour has seen an increase in sales in Belgium following the ongoing strike at rival grocery chain Delhaize.

Sales increased by nearly 10% in the first quarter, totalling more than €1 billion.

“The initiatives led by the new management team continue to bear fruit in Q1, with strong sales growth, particularly in hypermarkets, and market share gains after stabilising in the second half of 2022,” Carrefour said when announcing the profits.

But another contributing factor is likely the closure of many Delhaize shops as employees strike in protest against the company’s choice to switch to a franchise model.

Workers worry that converting stores into independently owned ones will result in lower wages and a loss of certain benefits at a time when grocery store employees are already struggling with high workloads and poor working conditions.

At the end of March, a source told RTBF that the subsequent strikes led to a strong increase in footfall in Carrefour stores, especially in areas where a closed Delhaize competitor is located.

“In a context of very high food inflation, Carrefour is staying the course and maintaining a strong commercial dynamic, with solid performances in terms of market share in all its key countries,” said chief executive Alexandre Bompard in a statement.

The retailer reported an especially strong increase in sales of own-brand products, which reached 35% of sales, an increase of three basis points compared to the same period last year.

That stands likely to continue as the strikes at Delhaize stores, particularly in Brussels, remain ongoing. Delhaize management refuses to budge from its position and tension between management and the unions remains strong.

Two Delhaize shops that were previously still open are now closed “for security reasons” following “several acts of vandalism,” according to the company.

“In the Delhaizes of Flagey and Mons, objects were damaged, and other things have also happened that cannot be tolerated and where we believe a line has been crossed,” Delhaize spokesperson Roel Dekelver told Bruzz, adding that he would not comment as to who is behind the vandalism but only that “what is certain is that we cannot tolerate this kind of thing”.

Management wanted to call police but Ixelles mayor Christos Doulkeridis objected, saying that the police should not intervene in this kind of social conflict.

Several employees also reportedly filed a complaint, which may have contributed to the decision to close the stores for two days and reassess the situation.

“The staff of the two shops who want to work will be sent to other branches and that is legally possible,” Dekelver said. “Those who don't want to work can go on strike or take leave.”

It is not clear whether this would be possible if those stores were under private, independent ownership.

Separate from these alleged instances of vandalism, five Delhaize stores in Brussels were hit by activists from a collective calling itself ‘dHELLaize’, who dumped waste oil in front of the entrances to the stores.

The activists say the action was done as a “response to the employers' contempt”, according to a statement.

“We condemn the justice system for siding with the multinational Ahold Delhaize in a frontal attack on the right to strike,” they wrote, referencing a Belgian court’s decision to forbid workers from striking.

“If strikes are banned, then the entrances will become impassable.”

Stores at Chazal, Hankar, Molière, Fort Jaco and De Fré were affected.

In the meantime, workers have stopped their blockade of a distribution centre that services Delhaize stores after police intervened at the insistence of Delhaize.

Because of the action, only four trucks per hour were able to leave the distribution centre, causing delays in supplying shops.

Management and unions will meet again for discussions on 2 May.

Written by Helen Lyons