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Belgium: Shopping at Okay: faster and easier as e-commerce

Discount Retail Chain Okay's (owned by Belgium Colruyt) store visit should not take more than twenty minutes, according to director Christophe Dehandschutter. The convenience store chain wants to conquer the cities and win younger customers for Colruyt Group.

Sharp choices

For just over a year, Dehandschutter has been managing director at Okay, Colruyt Group's convenience store chain that now has 163 branches in Belgium. He came to the helm with a clear mission: "Okay is a nice enseigne and a good brand, but it showed some lack of sharpness. Jef Colruyt instructed me to grab it. In the meantime, we have made clear choices, which we are now implementing."

Because food retail is simple, but not that easy, says Dehandschutter: "Food retail is moving boxes, simply put. But why is it that not all food retailers are successful? What is necessary to be successful?" Focus is the secret: you can't be the best at everything, you have to excel in well-chosen areas and stick to them, always and everywhere.

Speed and convenience

In the case of Okay, it's all about accessibility: "Speed and convenience are the essentials for Okay. We have the smallest stores on the market, with the great advantage that we are literally close to our customers and shoppers are quickly inside and out. We have set ourselves the goal that we have to be faster than e-commerce. A shopping trip at Okay may take no more than twenty minutes."

In this way, Okay makes life simple for its customers. All campaigns, communications and actions should be about this, says the director. And if you bring other groceries , such as lowest prices in the neighborhood or freshness of fruits and vegetables, they should always fit into the "easy" story for the customer. "We never want to go along with the issues of the day. Every crisis, other retailers suddenly shout that they are also cheap. That doesn't work. What do you really stand for? You always have to tell the same story, keep knocking on the same nail. If this consistent positioning corresponds to an important customer need, so convenience and time at Okay, then your brand resonates with the customer."

Targeting the younger consumer

For expansion, the convenience store chain is now mainly aiming at the cities. There are two main reasons for this. "One: we are not there enough as a group. Our most important store concept, Colruyt Lowest Prices, simply does not fit in city centres, and our competitors have a historical advantage there. Walmart in the United States or E.Leclerc in France face the exact same challenge. With Okay, we can continue in the cities."

"Two, we need to seduce the young consumer. Younger consumers no longer automatically end up at Colruyt. It used to make sense: if your parents were Colruyt customers, you would go shopping with them. Young people no longer do that, and as a result they know Colruyt less well. It is precisely in the cities that many younger people live and study. With our small city shops, we want to ensure that students get to know Okay."

Local shops still welcome

Okay opens an average of six stores a year, with the ambition to go even faster. "In the cities, these are relatively small buildings, which are rather easy to find. There is room in the center of the cities due to the disappearance of many other retail. And local shops are still welcome and needed in the cities, where more young people are choosing to live. Many municipalities scoff when a supermarket wants to be added, after all, there are already quite a few. But that's not the case in the cities."


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