This Saturday evening, three Biocoop Scarabée stores will surely bring down the curtain, just one year after their opening, in Rennes. An illustration of the brutal market decline that ecology has suffered since mid-2021. Put into receivership on October 26, Scarabée, which has thirteen stores and two restaurants in the Rennes metropolitan area, has thus chosen, in order to regain financial momentum, to close three of the four new brands that were inaugurated last year. “These stores do not live up to their forecast and are very loss-making, which drags down the cooperative’s result” explains, in a letter to its members published on its website, the executive board. When contacted, he did not wish to comment further. A job backup plan is also being developed, the letter states. The company has around 200 employees.
After several years of double-digit growth and euphoria during the first lockdown, sales of organic goods have fallen sharply, especially in specialty stores. Biocoop thus recorded a decrease “from -7% to -20% of turnover, depending on store, between November 2021 and 2022”, states Henri Godron, one of the national administrators.
“A change in consumption habits at the end of Covid, an enchantment [du] organic in favor of local non-organic products, the confusion caused by lower price tags such as HVE […]the consequences of the current climate on French morale with the war in Ukraine, the increase in energy and fuel prices have had a strong impact on us. Not to mention inflation», detailed the board of Scarabée on its website in October with a list of the observations shared by all actors in the organic sector.
Highly developed in Brittany, one of its historical strongholds, the Biocoop network, leader in organic distribution in France, has experienced several setbacks there. In the urban area of Saint-Brieuc, Gambille, also a member of the network, announced the dismissal of five employees and the closure of its hair salon, its restaurant and its fishmonger, integrated into the largest of its five stores. The Callune co-operative, which has four outlets in central Brittany, was also put into receivership in October and is considering closing one of them. “We all felt a drop from May 2021, but the projects had already been launched, says Stéphanie Mougniard, co-manager at Callune. These are the stores that opened in 2021 that have not reached the break-even point as they should and are dragging down other people’s business. The historians are supposed to give profits to dry up those who get started, but all our stores are suffering. In Pontivy, the oldest, we are at less than 12% of turnover over a year.
“We’re back to normal”
“When it was decided to open the stores, we had been growing strongly for ten years, the brakes were brutal. There was no euphoria, but a clear desire to develop organically, to get out of the niche market. Our ambition to develop healthy food can only be achieved by opening stores. One linear square meter is one hectare of organic agricultural development”, for his part, defends Matthieu Pérouse, national administrator of Biocoop. Since the beginning of the year, the network has registered 25 closures throughout France. All brands combined, the figure rises to 180, Scarabée states on its side.
“There were perhaps a bit too many Biocoop stores for the Rennes area”, in turn promotes Loïc Danel, director of Biotopia insight, a company specializing in analyzes of the organic market. “Everyone saw themselves a little too beautiful, a little too fast, with many openings, he judges. Today we are back to normal, a little more significantly than expected. The decline is sharp compared to 2020, when organic stores experienced very strong and quite unprecedented growth. But compared to 2019, we are at -2%, -3% in revenue. The transition is quite logical, even if it hurts.