Paul Peugnet, ​​Pricing Director for Food & Beverage, Drug Perfume & Hygiene at Carrefour France. Having spent almost a decade in the industry, Paul was appointed to his current position last year to enhance pricing within Carrefour and lead the team through unprecedented retail turbulence. 

What are your and your team’s major wins throughout 2021-2022?

The past few months have been quite challenging for pricing teams due to the steep inflation France is experiencing. As a consequence, our job has completely changed since inflation surged. We had to change our approach, especially in the way we work with other teams. As a result, we introduced a more agile and collaborative way of working with all the departments involved, from headquarters and buying teams to store managers and staff. 

I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished as a team in this inflationary environment. Together, we earned major wins as a result of our hard work. Above all, we managed to fulfill our commitment to protect our clients’ purchasing power. As one of many examples, we introduced a new offer in stores, putting forward 30 essential products for less than 30 euros. Also, we made a significant effort to implement a very granular pricing strategy and were rewarded with an increase in our overall market share. 

What are your thoughts on the current state of grocery retail within surging inflation? And what advice would you share with your colleagues on how to operate in this changing environment?

The situation is unprecedented. We are going through a period of turbulence where no one can really predict what will happen or how our clients will react to this changing environment. But one thing is for sure, when you are in the middle of the storm you must trust your compass to give you the right direction. My compass is the client. My one and only advice is to stay focused on your clients’ needs and reduce the pressure of inflation on customers.

Can personalized pricing help retailers follow this advice and aid their consumers?

Customized pricing is a challenge for pricing teams and needs to be performed with client mindfulness. For example, some clients do not understand why retailers’ pricing might vary from one region to another. This needs to be kept in mind to communicate better with customers. Nevertheless, I do think that tailored pricing is the solution to fight inflation – a very specific, local pricing based on an area’s specificities in terms of client needs. In parallel, national “blockbusters” need to be taken care with a particular focus. Each client is unique, so has to be our response. 

In terms of technology, I do not yet see one universal magical solution, a lot are in development. But I believe AI will soon be a major help in tackling these challenges.

With 12,225 stores in over 30 countries are all prices managed by HQ or is every region independent in terms of pricing management?

Prices are managed by each country independently. But the same logic applies to any country in Carrefour. We have to protect the purchasing power of our clients no matter what. The client-centric approach remains the backbone of every pricing strategy at Carrefour. And this approach is then adapted to the specifics of each country.

Back in 2018, Alexandre Bompard announced a 4-year “Carrefour 2022” plan that was accomplished recently. I imagine how challenging it was for your team. How did you set your team for success?

The most important thing is to keep our client's interest at heart. They are our compass and provide us with the direction we follow. I always ask my team "What does the client want? What does the client need?" Once you’ve got your compass right, you set up your course and start your journey no matter the weather. During this difficult period of time, it’s important to have something to trust and to follow in a storm. 

Throughout this journey, every customer’s opinion is pondered to adapt our pricing strategy: we organize meetings with our clients once a week, seek their vision and find out their needs. We collect their feedback and take it into account to elaborate our strategy.

We have several other client-centric routines on a daily and weekly basis. One of these routines is to read and answer each pricing-related client comment and feedback we receive on our website. Answering every single comment within 24 hours, critical or not, brings the team as close as possible to the customer.

The recently announced “Digital Retail 2026" strategy aims at tripling Carrefour’s GMV and adding €600m to recurring operating income. Is pricing included in the list of areas driving these numbers? If yes, how?

The very principle of the “Digital Retail 2026" strategy is that every department is included from HQ to stores, and every employee will benefit from this digital revolution. Pricing is of course fully embarked. We will implement the best tech solutions to support our granular strategy and facilitate the setting of the best price for our clients.

What would be your advice to fellow colleagues who start their career in pricing?

First, be bold. In this shifting environment, you will have no choice but to take risks. So you need to be agile and adopt a test and learn philosophy. You must trust yourself, try your idea out and then analyze the situation. If you’re wrong – take a step back. There is one motto I keep repeating to my teams: half a decision equals double the mess. You have to make a decision fully and take responsibility for the associated risks. You have to go all in: fail fast, learn faster.