“Our primary role is as a service provider,” says CEO Guillaume de Marcellus. “We observe market trends and select the best products on behalf of our members. We analyze sales figures and offer support to bar and restaurant owners so that they can see how they compare with competitors and how they can improve their performance. As a network we take a lively interest in the success of our customers as it in turn boosts our sales figures.”
The C10 network has existed in its current form since 2004. It developed as a culmination of a progressive concentration of existing distribution cooperatives.
“The various professional beverage distributors were already starting to form purchasing unions on a regional basis in the 1970s,” says Mr. de Marcellus. “The first national distributors emerged in the 1980s. In the past, the major breweries organized their own distribution. However, in the mid-1990s, the first breweries began to outsource this function. It was out of these outsourced beer distributors that C10 initially formed.”
As can be expected, its portfolio was initially dominated by beer. “We gradually diversified our portfolio by buying out other distributors and integrating their product ranges into ours,” explains Mr. de Marcellus. “Finally, we came full circle when we acquired the distribution arm of the Kronenbourg brewery in 2008.”
Today, C10 offers a comprehensive portfolio of beer, wine, soft drinks and fruit juices, coffee and hot beverages, water, and flavoured syrups. It operates a tightly woven network of depots and distribution centers throughout France to ensure even coverage and rapid deliveries.
“We are now the biggest drinks supplier in France with a total market share of 31%,” says Mr. de Marcellus. “This position gives us a certain amount of power and influence in the market. I believe very strongly in the power of networks rather than rigidly hierarchical structures. Networks are the future, but they also have to keep moving and developing to be successful.”
For C10, the future will see it working to develop its activities in the wine sector. The company has its own chain of 34 wine shops under the name Comptoir des Vignes, which are open to end consumers. By the end of this year, it will have opened a further eight outlets and is planning to open another twelve in 2017.
“The goal is to reach an initial 50 shops relatively quickly and proceed from there,” outlines Mr. de Marcellus. “There is still room for us to expand in the wine market, and it is particularly important because it is not as seasonal a product as beer.”
C10 already sells 65 million bottles of wine each year and has a portfolio that encompasses over 1,500 different wines. However, it is still not seen as a specialist wine dealer – a state of affairs it is keen to change.
“We have an expert team responsible for selecting which wines to stock and negotiating with suppliers,” says Mr. de Marcellus. “They visit over 200 producers and sample more than 5,000 wines to boil these down to a shortlist which we can offer to our members. We guarantee that these wines are sourced directly from the producer and stocked under optimal conditions at our logistics platform.”
The members of the C10 distribution network are all independent wholesalers who are responsible for their own sales strategy and organization. They are motivated to succeed for their own sake, and their combined success strengthens the entire network. C10 supports them as much as it can right through to providing POS support for their customers.
“We provide training seminars, product information, market analysis and data sharing,” says Mr. de Marcellus. “Every three years we hold a conference for our members at which we discuss business strategy and other relevant topics.”
C10 also extends its assistance and support to existing cafe and bar owners as well as those looking to open an establishment. This help can range from the simple provision of information to substantial financial support. “We help finance their dream and secure a new customer for the network in return,” says the CEO.
A major topic currently affecting the C10 network is the digital revolution. “We are supporting our members as they make the transition to a digital system,” says Mr. de Marcellus. “At the moment, everyone is working with different systems, but we are working towards harmonizing these or migrating individual members to a common system.”
The network currently has three main systems in use, but even this presents a challenge. A central CRM system allows it to process orders and track deliveries online while its chain of wine shops also has an online shop, which is proving a success with clients.
“The opportunities offered by digital technology and communications are transforming the way we do business,” says Mr. de Marcellus. “There is still much more potential in this area to be exploited.” Continued growth with its existing members is C10’s goal for the future. This will be achieved by ensuring that each member exploits their potential to the full while providing them with the best possible support.