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French household goods retail chain cooperating with Estonian companies


by Maarit Koobas, Enterprise Estonia

GIFI is a French household goods retail chain with a turnover of € 900 million. The company was founded 32 years ago when Philippe Ginestet opened his first shop in Villeneuve-sur-Lot in  the south-west of France. Due to customers’ big demand a second store was opened a few weeks later. Today, the number of stores reaches 405 - 377 of them are located in France, in addition there are shops in Morocco, Italy, and Spain. 70% of the company’s goods are acquired from Asia and 30% from Europe. European suppliers include France, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Italy, the Netherlands and now also Estonian companies.

The cooperation project of GIFI and Estonian companies started when Estonian ambassador met with Philippe Ginestet, the President of Gifi Group, who was interested to find out whether he can find products that are suitable for the profile of his goods in Estonia. While the company acquires its goods generally from big fairs in China and Germany, Estonia represented for them, so to speak, a special project — as they wished to test if such a state-based cooperation would be possible and effective in the first place.

GIFI business model requires that 80% of goods should cost less than 5 euros in shops. Thus, on the one hand, they were looking for products with a cost price about 1-2 euros, but at the same time they were very interested in expanding the assortment of their goods and also in products with higher price. As to products acquired from Estonia, however, the most important criterion was not a favorable price, but companies had to have previous export experience.

In October 2012, Estonian Ambassador to France turned to the Enterprise Estonia (EAS) to find Estonian producers of commodity groups proposed by GIFI who might be interested in selling their products in the GIFI chain stores.

In June 2013, 8 companies chosen by EAS went to France to visit  GIFI stores and meet individually purchasing managers of respective commodity groups. In September 2013, under the leadership of EAS, GIFI, in turn, visited Estonian companies and made the final choice of the companies for cooperation there. At the moment goods are supplied from two Estonian companies: Wendre and Mivar-Viva.

Marianne Lehodey, purchasing manager of GIFI interior design goods said that Estonian companies are so far among the strongest and best suppliers of blankets. Until now Wendre has been supplying circa 4000 - 5000 blankets per month to GIFI.

Jane Jaakson, account manager at Wendre said that they hope to expand the range of products sold to GIFI in the fall, during the high season. She added that so far, their cooperation had been smooth.