"To buy less expensive possible to sell less expensive possible". The formula of Edouard Leclerc is the concept founder of the movement. From the grocery of Landerneau which opened in 1949 to the department stores of today, the system E Leclerc, strong of its 470 independent members, was confirmed to be like an alternative to the traditional distribution. A "success story" where the men remain in the center of a single organization as much on the philosophical, legal, or financial aspect.
The history of the movement is marked out with important periods.
In 1956, the first store of clothing "Leclerc Vêtements opens" and already in 1958 around fifty stores carry out the ensign Leclerc.
The following year, a committee of the Merlin-Gerin directors company opens in Grenoble a discount store LECLERC. It posts prices from 20 to 35% lower than market offers. The first store in Paris area is established in Issy-les-Moulineaux. The movement is launched.
In the Sixties, the stores LECLERC increase and adopt the new formula of the supermarket. In 1964, one year after the opening of the very first hypermarket Carrefour in Sainte Geneviève des Bois, the store of Landerneau becomes the first hypermarket of the ensign.
In 1969, 75 independent stores, under the impulsion of Jean-Pierre Le-Roch make scission with the movement and are grouped under the ensign EX which will quickly be renamed Intermarché (Intremarket).
In 1992, E.LECLERC rates on Europe by opening its first store with Pampelune. The ensign opened since more than twenty stores abroad, in Spain, in Portugal, as Slovenia and Poland.
The ensign of all the challenges
The history of the Leclerc centers is manifestly marked by engagements denouncing the attacks carried to the right of the competition, the free-company, and the free choice of the consumers. In 1960, the Fontanet circular modifies the legislation on the refusal to sell. E.LECLERC gains its first lawsuits against the brand names who boycotted it. All centers E.LECLERC sign a contract and are committed to buy directly to the producer and selling only brand names products.
In 1973, Edouard Leclerc fights the text of the law Royer, which was going to be the first of a long series limiting the expansion of department stores. In 1979, the movement creates the SIPLEC in order to be able to sell the less expensive gasoline.
When in 1981 Jack Lang reaches the Ministry of Culture, he imposes the book at a single price. E.LECLERC wants to democratize the reading and exceeds the law with prices 20 % less expensive. Four years later, E.LECLERC is the second bookseller of France.
E.LECLERC democratizes gold in 1986. Today 200 ensigns "Le Manège à Bijoux " distribute creations of French craftsmen at prices 40 % less expensive than in traditional jewellery.
Other combat, other victories, in 1988, justice refutes the monopoly of the dispensaries on the products of para pharmacy and the same year the Ministry of Industry authorizes the centers to create a service station on the motorways.
On the ground of citizenship, Leclerc engaged itself in favour of the protection of the environment with in particular the installation of the first reusable bag system and especially the suppression of the free bags, operation however risky in the case of the fidelity of the customers.
In 2005, Leclerc pleads for a "massive and brutal" reform of the Law Galland, which had for principal perverse effect to involve an explosion of the postpones margins, with impossibility for the distributors to drop the prices for the consumer, either than by the mechanism of reduction via the discount cards, in which all the ensigns were engulfed.
A single organization
All the Leclerc system rests on a network of independent owners of one or more supermarkets or hypermarkets. Globally, they are 460 to have 561 stores (including 391 hypermarkets and 131 supermarkets). All are joined together within an association of baptized law 1901 A.C.D. Lec, created in 1964, and co-presided by Edouard Leclerc and his son Michel-Edouard Leclerc. This association takes the great strategic decisions, makes it possible to jointly manage the policy of price, national communication or data processing. This association concedes the ensign to the members of the movement to 3 requirements: respect of the low pricing policy, installation of the employee profit parts of the turnover results, active contribution to the life of the movement through its participation with the teams of purchase or referencing.
Contrarily to what the Intermarket competitor movement practices, the decisions are not delegated to a director team. They are taken jointly by the totality of the members who meet regularly every two months. Le Galec (Leclerc purchase group), power station of national referencing of the movement, is the commercial tool of the ensign with the 16 power stations of purchases (SCA) established in regions.
The Leclerc concept in its global, was formalized in 2000, at the time of the partnership with the co-operative Italian network Conad. In 2004, in order to ensure the perenniality of the Leclerc concept, the owner family of the name did not hesitate to give the Leclerc brand name and its derivatives to its members for an altogether moderate price of 120 million euros for a company, which turned in a little more than 50 years into the number one of the large distribution in France before Carrefour.
In 1999, the personal action of Michel-Edouard to the members, allowed the partnership with Système U, giving birth to the central merchandizing Lucie (Union of the European Independent Co-operators)
For now, the movement is confronted to two problems that it will be necessary for him to solve.
The first one, being a true strategic choice, relates to the development in foreign countries. Even the structure of the movement made of independants does not support the pooling of important funds to approach new countries, where of course, the investments are heavy. This explains the number relatively low of stores out of the frontiers, the only country the ensign really took risks for, being Poland.
The second sword of Damocles on the Leclerc Centers is the transmission of the stores. Many members approach the retirement age and would like to be able to cede their supermarket or their hypermarket. But they are worth fortunes, approximately a year of sales turnover. However the stores realize between 20 and 130 million euros of sales turnover. Under these conditions, it is impossible to young people to take over. Only the large concurrent ensigns have the power of offering such prices, which is obviously a long term threat.