If you plan to visit France (or anywhere in Europe) you often hear people talk about not having Target or Walmart stores to shop. You’ll find a bakery, butcher and sweet shop on every corner! Europeans don’t shop at Walmart!
Well, let me tell you. I found the French equivalent to Walmart this weekend. And it was NUTS!
I needed to purchase a pillow since the apartment only had one per person, and I just couldn’t sleep without two. We walked past several bakeries, butcheries, sweet shops and corner stores to the Centre Commercial Nice Etoile. The mall here in Nice. Inside you will find clothing shops, jewelry stores, eateries, and a massive store – Carrefour.
I couldn’t stop staring, open mouthed at this gigantic store that I almost walked right into the back of my husband (who was doing some staring of his own).
A bit of history:
Carrefour opened its first supermarket in Annecy, France in 1960. Interestingly, Walmart wasn’t established until 1962. In 1963, Carrefour invented a new store concept, the hypermarket, opening a 27,000 sq ft store with 12 checkout lanes and 400 parking spaces. They even expanded to Spain and Brazil in the 1970’s and have continued to expand throughout Europe, Asia and South America. It is completely possible that I have seen a Carrefour store in my travels and never noticed this super giant of supermarkets.
Carrefour = The French Walmart:
Just like Walmart, Carrefour has everything you need – from food to televisions to books and washing machines. You can pretty much find it all. The clothing section is definitely smaller than Walmart, but you can purchase the basics all in one stop. I walked the aisles in awe as I was jostled about by French shoppers eagerly tending to their shopping on a Saturday afternoon.
Just like the smaller Walmart Marketplace locations that have been popping up all over the US, I found a Carrefour Express right in the heart of Old Town Nice. We actually shopped there on our first trip to Nice, I just didn’t realize it was a smaller version of the massive Carrefour hyperstore. As it turns out, there are Carrefour City stores in Paris as well as Carrefour Markets in smaller villages.
Benefits of Carrefour:
- Lots of sales throughout the store, especially 2 + 1 Gratuit (Buy 2, get 1 free).
- Store coupons found online!
- Le Carte Carrefour gives you perks and access to special checkout lanes.
- Good value for the store brands.
- Open later than most French stores.
A few difference you will notice between Carrefour and Walmart:
- Carrefour employees were more helpful and friendly (yes, even to Americans).
- You don’t see people shopping in their pajamas at Carrefour as you would at the US counterpart.
- HUGE cheese shop and “deli” area at Carrefour.
- The food we purchased from Carrefour was of a much higher quality than Walmart.
- Just like other French shops, bring your own bag or be prepared to purchase one.
While I can definitely see the benefit of such stores and of having the convenience of shopping when more French proprietors have closed their doors, I prefer to shop the local boulangerie (bakery), fromagerie (cheese shop) and smaller fresh markets. That being said, I do like the new pillow that I purchased along side a box of cereal, fabric softener and shredded cheese.
If you’re heading to France, see the Carrefour locations here.
Have you shopped at a Carrefour store? Did you find it similar to the US Walmart?