Created in 1998 in Bordeaux, the Cdiscount online commerce site, owned almost entirely by the Casino group today, weighs some four billion euros in turnover. The company’s headquarters are still based in Bordeaux, where nearly 1,300 employees are concentrated, while around a thousand logisticians are spread over the group’s four warehouses in France, which represents a storage area of 500,000 m². Logistics staff which doubles from October, to prepare for events such as Black Friday, then the Christmas holidays. 20 minutes questioned the deputy general manager of Cdiscount, Marie Even.
How do you prepare for an event like Black Friday?
It is an appointment that marks the beginning of Christmas shopping. We usually have 20 million visitors per month on our site, we expect between 8 and 10 million for Black Friday alone, even though it is becoming Black Week for most retail sites in line. We have seen very dynamic traffic since last Friday. We have almost 200 people who work constantly to find the best product every day, at the best price, and Black Friday is an event that we prepare months in advance, almost from the start of the year, in order to be able to present the best possible offers.
How is this organized in your warehouses?
In terms of surface, we have more than enough to store products. On the other hand, we are doubling the size of our workforce by the end of the year. They arrive in successive waves from the end of September, beginning of October. Our warehouse in Cestas near Bordeaux, for example, has gone from 600 to 1,400 logistics operators.
In your warehouses, what solutions do you implement to consume less and waste less, particularly in terms of packaging?
We started initiatives to reduce the carbon impact of logistics eight years ago. We have acted on transport, packaging, without forgetting the working conditions of our trades. For example, we have massively invested in six 3D packaging machines, which scan the three dimensions of the product to allow the cardboard to fit as closely as possible. Some 85% of our products are thus packaged in an optimized manner, which saves 30% of boxes. By also optimizing the loading of our trucks, which are completely full, we are at the same time reducing the number of trucks on the road by 30%. It’s colossal. Another example, we are working with the hipli start-up and its package reusable a hundred times. The customer can thus return the packaging of his product, after having folded it up and placed it in a letterbox. So even if they are plastic bags, it is still more virtuous than a single box. We are also taking steps to remove the packaging of products that do not present any particular risk. We ask our customers beforehand, who accept 98% that their product is not packaged. We are working to expand the list of eligible products.
There is also the question of last mile delivery, how to reduce its impact?
There are indeed issues of noise pollution and air pollution. We have made the choice in the big cities to develop electric fleets. We are experimenting in Lyon with large volume deliveries, such as washing machines, by cargo bike, with a start-up called Spread the kiss. For our same-day delivery offer, which concerns small products for customers living in large cities, we use TGVs: the packages are installed under the bar car, they take the train and are collected at their arrival by electric van to be delivered to the customer. I often hear that express delivery is more polluting, that’s not necessarily true, it depends on how you deliver. At Cdiscount, the fastest delivery is the least emissive. We were also the first to develop such a large network of collection points, for both small and large products, everywhere in France, which limits travel. Recently, we even opened 200 collection points in farms in rural areas, in partnership with another start-up, Agrikolis. We have one on the Ile de Ré, others in the mountains.
What about drone delivery, which you wanted to experience?
With all the delivery offers that exist for customers, frankly it’s not a priority today.
Some tech companies are currently going through a crisis, after the Covid-19 which had seen their activity soar. How is it going on your side?
The Covid was a moment of strong mobilization for us, because all the stores were closed, and only e-commerce remained for non-food products. We have never stopped delivering, which has allowed us to attract new customers. So, indeed, the level of post-Covid activity has come down through a catch-up effect, but we have not lost these new customers. And above all, the Covid has accelerated the use of digital.
Conversely, several sectors are experiencing difficulties in recruiting, is this your case?
No, because we retain our ability to attract, whether for logisticians or engineers, even if the market is indeed tight. But we are constantly evolving: we have done ten years of classic e-commerce, then in 2011 we made the choice to open the marketplace, which allows us to have the widest possible offer with 14,000 sellers, who offer a total of 80 million products on our site. At the same time, we went from 80 computer engineers to nearly 700 today. We have gone from being a very commercial company in its DNA, to a company that is above all technological, without having lost our retailer culture. This history, and the massive investments that we have made, mean that we offer an exceptional playground for the tech professions. On the other hand, competition is stronger, because all companies are undergoing their digital transformation, so the challenge is to remain attractive.