Supermarket chain Carrefour on Wednesday opened a distribution center in North China's Tianjin, providing logistics support for its more than 30 supermarkets in the region.
The center covers 25,000 square meters and is intended to improve delivery efficiency in the Jing-Jin-Ji region - short for Beijing, Tianjin and North China's Hebei Province - as well as neighboring areas including East China's Shandong Province and North China's Shanxi Province.
This is a part of the French supermarket chain operator's new strategy for its China unit, which in March announced plans to diversify into emerging businesses such as online-to-offline (O2O) and convenience stores.
Carrefour believes a strong supply chain network is the key and backbone of the company's expansion and new projects, Thierry Garnier, executive director of Carrefour China, told a press conference in Tianjin on Wednesday.
Running 232 stores in more than 70 cities in the Chinese mainland, the company has set a goal of having six distribution centers operating in the mainland by the end of 2016 to cover its bricks-and-mortar operations and e-commerce business. The Tianjin distribution center is the fourth to be opened since 2014.
"O2O is an industry trend. Carrefour has made a wise decision to enter the segment, but I'm pessimistic about the prospects for its owned-and-operated e-commerce business in face of fierce competition," Liu Dingding, an industry analyst with Beijing-based market consultancy Sootoo, told the Global Times Wednesday.
Domestic e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding's business-to-customer online marketplace tmall.com, for instance, has been actively developing its online supermarket business. It offered whopping discounts of up to 150 yuan ($23.45) off a 188 yuan bill on a variety of groceries during the November 11 Singles' Day shopping event.
Such aggressive moves are further eroding the market share of traditional supermarket chains like Carrefour, which has been having a hard time amid the economic slowdown, said Liu.
In China, Carrefour's sales were down 11.2 percent year-on-year in the third quarter because of slowing consumption, according to the company's quarterly statement released in October.