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Open sesame!


Maxi Bazar ensures a high rate of footfall in its stores by offering a constantly changing product range. Besides perennial favourites, the store has weekly promotions which are often tailored to suit the season or particular events in the calendar.

Customers coming in to buy household consumables at a much lower price than in the supermarket will often find  something else of use. “We appeal a lot to impulse buyers,” says Managing Director Stéphane Pellegrin. “Our best-selling product category is kitchen accessories, and our typical customer is female.”

Knowing that women typically are responsible for the majority of household shopping, it is not surprising that Maxi Bazar’s sales concept is strongly skewed towards this target audience. Tableware, vases, picture frames, candles, lamps, decorative items, stationery, toiletries, cosmetics, cleaning products, hobby items, party accessories and gift articles all jostle for attention and make it possible to satisfy a wide range of needs in one place.

The Maxi Bazar chain consists of 50 shops located in France (23) and Switzerland (27). They range in floor space from 600 m² to 3,000 m² depending on the size of the town in which they are located.

The origins of the chain go back to 1977 when the current Managing Director’s father founded Ouest Harmonie as a chemist and general retailor near Paris. It was Stéphane Pellegrin who developed the Maxi Bazar concept, opening the first store in Antibes and following it with openings across south-eastern France.

In 2008, the concept was successfully exported to the French-speaking part of Switzerland, where Maxi Bazar outlets now outnumber those in France. The stores are part of a wider trend towards what can be called lifestyle shopping concepts in which low prices and attractive product ranges bring in shoppers of all ages and socioeconomic groups.

“Our low prices are a key part of the successful concept, but that is not everything in our business,” insists Mr. Pellegrin. “We also offer excellent service, and our staff are always on hand to advise customers about our products.”

The financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent recession triggered a shift in the retail sector that has democratized discount shopping. Today’s middle-class shoppers are just as likely to be found in a discount supermarket as a high-end boutique.

Maxi Bazar is one of a number of dynamic retailers benefiting from this trend. “We offer branded products up to 30% cheaper than in supermarkets because we buy up unsold stock,” says Mr. Pellegrin. “Why would anyone want to pay more for the same products when they don’t have to? Today’s shoppers are much more savvy, and much of the snobbery has gone.”

The concept is not new, and the market is crowded with retailers whose main selling point is their low prices. Maxi Bazar seeks to stand out from the crowd by offering its customers an attractive product range sold in attractive surroundings.

“We have a dense network of suppliers who develop and manufacture products on our behalf,” says Mr. Pellegrin. “They also advise us about their own specialist areas. We also buy up end-of-line or discontinued stock remnants and pass these on to our customers at greatly discounted prices.”

Maxi Bazar continues to grow apace. The latest new opening will be a store in Lyon with a floor space of almost 3,000 m². Other store openings are in the pipeline with the company’s sights set firmly on Paris.

“Our goal is to open between three and five new stores in France each year,” outlines Mr. Pellegrin. “We also want to expand into the German-speaking parts of Switzerland and have already secured suitable sites in Zurich, Basle and Bern.”

From there it is just a small step to Germany and the biggest national market in Europe. It will face stiff competition from other pretenders to the crown, but the Maxi Bazar genie is out of the bottle, and nothing is going to stop it now.

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