Founder of Label’Vie, Zouhair Bennani is a businessperson who has been the head of eight different companies and currently is Chairman & Manager at Société des Centres Commerciaux du Sud, Chairman for Retail Holding, and Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at Label’Vie SA. Mr Bennani is also Manager at Virgin North Africa.
In France, Carrefour is a temple of consumption to the point of becoming a question of sovereignty. As proof, last December, the French government even opposed a “clear and definitive” refusal to the takeover of the French food distribution giant Carrefour by the Canadian Couche-Tard. However, the Moroccan businessman Zouhair Bennani, with his company Retail Holding and his brand Label’Vie, is in ambush. His bulimia worries the French, pushing the French magazine L’Express to investigate the roadmap in France of the one he calls the “Prince of the Moroccan supermarket”.
“Zouhair Bennani, the Moroccan who wants to recover a crossroads store per month”. This is the title of the survey recently published by L’Express , the French news magazine. In this investigation, the weekly explains how the 61-year-old businessman, whom he calls the prince of the Moroccan supermarket with his company Retail Holding and his label Label’Vie, is in the process of getting his hands on France, silently, on a large part of the stores of the French retail giant.
Commenting on the photo of the Carrefour store located in the huge Grand Littoral shopping center, not far from the northern districts of Marseille, which illustrates the article of its investigation, the magazine notes that “in recent months, through a system of lease-management, the Moroccan businessman Zouhair Bennani got his hands on several Carrefour hypermarkets”. “On the shelves of this Grand Littoral hypermarket, there are always the same promotions on detergent cans, beer packs or baby diaper packs. But if they continue to don the distributor’s azure blue T-shirt every day, the 400 employees of this 16,000 square meter hypermarket no longer really work for the French distribution giant. Since early May,
In addition to this new take from the boss of Label’Vie, the magazine notes that in recent months, through a rental-management system, Zouhair Bennani has also got hold of the Carrefour de Parinor hypermarket in Aulnay-sous- Bois (312 employees), those of Echirolles in the suburbs of Grenoble (320), Vitrolles (462), Port-de-Bouc (170) and Bonneveine (150) in Marseille. L’Express reveals that he is in the process of signing Beaucaire, in the Gard, and above all two other jewels of mass distribution in Ile-de-France: Bercy and Belle-Epine. “A raid which would bring it gently towards 2000 employees…”, insists the weekly.
L’Express explains that there is behind the arrival of the Moroccan businessman, a form of restructuring of the tricolor brand is taking place quietly. In bright red for several years, Carrefour Hypermarkets, the holding company dedicated to this segment, lost another 424 million euros in 2020 while it achieves more than 14 billion euros in net turnover. According to the magazine, at a time when the hypermarket model is in doubt, the French retail giant has found in lease management the solution to part with some of its least profitable hypermarkets. “No store closings. No social plan, no wave for the one who, in recent months has sought to marry Carrefour with its competitor Auchan or with the Canadian Couche-Tard”,
Also according to L’Express, Carrefour would thus have in mind to separate from about forty hypermarkets out of the 200 that the brand has. Does this mean that the Moroccan will take over everything. According to the author of the survey, who quotes the management of Carrefour, Zouhair Bennani, who negotiated this agreement with the Moroccan group for almost two years, will not take over all these stores but “he has a real ambition. He wants to develop on the French market and he is also very interested in downtown supermarkets”.
In the same vein, the weekly recalls that between Bennani and the French giant, it’s a long story that dates back to 2009, the year during which Zouhair Bennani, who had already made his mark in mass distribution in Morocco, struck a blow by signing a franchise contract with the tricolor group: all its Moroccan stores called Label’Vie were then renamed Carrefour. The result is that reports L’Express, in a decade, Zouhair Bennani made the French brand prosper in the Kingdom. “He created the Carrefour Gourmet, a kind of trendy and luxurious local Monoprix, located in the upscale neighborhoods of the big cities; develops Carrefour Market, a network of more than 170 supermarkets and Atacadao, a chain of low-cost wholesalers where small grocers but also large families come to stock up”,
Pushing its investigation to the end, L’Express tried to decipher the method of the CEO of Retail Holding which, according to him, consists of “cost hunting and supply at the best price”. For the magazine, Zouhair Bennani, who doesn’t hesitate to dress up to go and inspect his stores, is a sourcing ace, ready to shun the big central purchasing bodies and favor short circuits. Moreover, he continues, supply was one of the key points of the negotiation with Carrefour. As a result, Bennani is not required to go through Carrefour’s central purchasing office. L’Express, which quotes a source well versed in the contract, underlines that “by regaining control, it hopes to reduce its supply costs by 10% to 15%”. What Riad Laissaoui, general manager of Retail Holding, the Moroccan parent company,
The investigation also reveals that to get started in France, Zouhair Bennani undertook a lightning raid since the statutes of his French company, called “Retail Holding Europe”, were only filed on June 28, 2021 at the registry of the court of Caen. “A week earlier, he had made a deposit of 50,000 euros in a Société Générale account to create his company, the administrative management of which he entrusted to a close collaborator, Rachid Hadni, with an ambitious roadmap: to recover “one store per month”, according to L’Express, which quotes a source familiar with the matter. A desire that seems to confirm Riad Laissaoui, who according to the magazine indicated that the Moroccan group has started an ambitious plan with Carrefour which aims to develop its activities in France, and potentially in other European countries.
It appears from the survey that Zouhair Bennani’s group has already brought its Moroccan touch to the management of stores in the field. According to L’Express, for the moment, each establishment will be managed as an independent, with some imported specificities. “No more single head of department, one person controls at least three. Conversely, there is no question of letting customers weigh their products themselves, as was the case in Echirolles. In Isère, the store sold fruit and vegetables for 30,000 euros each week, but found a hole of 3,000 euros in its cash register, ”reveals the magazine. “Zouhair Bennani’s teams handed over a person to the weigh-in and, abracadabra, the scales went up! “, he adds, specifying that in each store, the direction is reorganized and passes the accounts to the steel wool.