France Casino Uses Tramways to Supply its Stores

Gildas Aitamer (Senior Retail Analyst)
07 July 2017
French retailer Casino is trialling the use of the city's tramway system to supply two urban minimarkets in its hometown of St Etienne (Central France), newspaper Linéaires reports. Operated by the city's transport company, this freight experiment makes use of an old tramway which has been renovated for this purpose. Stripped of the passenger seats, the vehicle has a cargo capacity of 80m3 – equivalent to three trucks – and can carry up to 17 tons. The freight vehicle blends in with passenger traffic at off-peak times, unloading goods at the stations closest to the stores.
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Gildas Aitamer (Senior Retail Analyst)
Gildas Aitamer (Senior Retail Analyst)

Opinion Too Many Foreseeable Hurdles

07 July 2017

The French hate change but love revolution. And a green one seems underway: the Paris climate agreement, a food waste ban, diesel vehicles banned from 2020 in Paris, the end of diesel and petrol car sales by 2040 etc... As in all revolutions, ideological enthusiasm can sometimes overshadow pragmatism. After all, France already enjoys a CO2 emission per capita lower than Denmark and Finland, and nearly twice as low as neighbouring Germany, according to Eurostat 2012 data... But more can be done!

French companies in general, and retailers in particular, have been at pains to appear in a positive light on climate. A few days ago, Carrefour announced a fleet of 200 trucks running on natural gas; Casino already uses ships on the river Seine to supply Parisian stores, not to mention rail freight. As French cities have entered a tramway frenzy over the past decade, it was merely a matter of time before the idea of tram freight emerged. Casino is following new initiatives particularly closely, given its vast presence in French urban centres.  

To us, profitability is the line separating a sustainable business model and on-off CSR campaign. While we feel such a venture points to a solution, the infrastructures to support it are simply not there. A repurposed city bus would hardly replace a delivery truck. Following this logic, the retailers would have to deliver the goods by truck to the tram depot, load them onboard (provided the pallet dimensions are compatible), before unloading the goods in the city centre within a short timeframe not to delay passenger traffic, before manually transporting the pallets from the tram stop to the destination... Quite a hassle when the initial truck could have simply driven to the store at night or during the early morning when traffic is light. 

This move may be relevant for a few handpicked stores and with support from public administration, but to make this alternative scalable and viable, private connections onto the network need to be constructed, alongside specially built trams for easy loading/unloading of the standardised pallet size. The financial cost and bureaucratic hurdles associated with such venture would most likely be huge. While this does not solve the number of vehicles on the road, a more reasonable environmental alternative remains, for us and as of now, the plain old optimal use of emission-free trucks.

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