Colruyt Group finalises conversion to Comarkt/Comarché in eight weeks: unseen feat successfully achieved

Colruyt Group finalises conversion to Comarkt/Comarché in eight weeks: unseen feat successfully achieved

Monday, April 29, 2024

The last two Comarkt stores are opening their doors in Gavere and Oordegem today: the final piece of a tour de force that Colruyt Group has pulled off over the past eight weeks. As many as 39 food stores in our country took turns closing for a week to be converted to the Comarkt or Comarché temporary store format, at an average rate of about five stores a week since 4 March. A true retail hustle that came to fruition thanks to thorough preparation, a solid dose of perseverance, and positive cooperation between the teams.

Largest acquisition in Colruyt Group’s history

Of the intended 57 Smatch and Match stores, the Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) granted Colruyt Group the eventual acquisition of 54 of these. The BCA’s ruling on the stores in Gavere and Oordegem was issued on 17 April, and they’re already opening their doors today under the Comarkt format.

This marks the end of a very intensive period of converting 39 stores to the temporary format that Colruyt Group has been using for years in transition periods. It is the first time Comarkt and Comarché will be seen on the Belgian streetscape at such a large scale (up until 4 March, only two existed in Flanders), and the overall project is Colruyt Group’s largest acquisition to date. In addition to the conversion of 39 stores to Comarkt/Comarché, 7 already franchised stores are on track to transition to the Spar format and 7 stores are closing their doors for a longer period and then immediately reopening under a Colruyt Group format. Options for one store (Belsele) are still under review*.

Conversion of 39 stores in eight weeks: a true feat

Work to convert the first stores to the Comarkt or Comarché format began on 4 March. At eight weeks, these stores were opened under their new (temporary) flag at a rate of an average of five stores per week. Christophe Dehandschutter, who has ultimate responsibility for the project, clarifies: “This way, we could best ensure continuity for both customers and personnel. The week of conversion was a very intense undertaking each time, though. For example, the store was thoroughly cleaned after clearance sales, and a new IT network was provided. Small adjustments were made to the infrastructure and Colruyt Group software was installed at the checkouts so that Xtra would be accepted from now on. The shelves were then restocked with new products, including Colruyt Group’s private labels, and new price tags were applied. The new logo appeared on the façade and in the store, and personnel received training to work with the new software systems. The first Comarkt/Comarché stores opened on 11 March, with the last two opening their doors today. Over the next three years, each store will be converted to a final Colruyt Group store format.

Tour de force in the Supply Chain

Logistics had to be shifted up a gear to supply the additional stores from Colruyt Group’s distribution centres. This amounted to an average of 12 extra trips per day to supply all those new stores, with an average of 180 extra carts and 32,000 extra orders per day. This provided an average of 235 extra hours of order-picking daily at the logistics centres. To get the job done, Colruyt Group’s Selection Department recruited some 120 additional logistics personnel in a matter of months. Interviews were also held with former personnel from Smatch/Match’s logistics centres. A dozen of them have already been employed in Colruyt Group’s logistics centres in the meantime.

Teamwork makes the dream work

This project required a very thorough preparation: various Colruyt Group departments such as the Sales teams, Human Resources, Supply Chain, IT, Technics, Colruyt Group Fine Food, and Marketing had to get involved to get a large number of stores operational in a few months. Hundreds of Colruyt Group colleagues eventually worked together to make it all happen in this short span of time. Christophe Dehandschutter: “I am most proud of that unseen collaboration. Challenges were tackled efficiently and immediately became lessons learned for the conversion of stores further down the line. The vibe between the different teams is still positive today and that is hugely pleasing.

Welcoming new colleagues to Colruyt Group

As a people-oriented employer, Colruyt Group attaches great importance to welcoming new colleagues properly. An additional team was set up to be responsible for proper onboarding, as it involved a large number of – some 955 – new co-workers. Those people already received a welcome card in their letterbox over the past few weeks.

Each new store was assigned a mentor to coach and support personnel in learning all the new systems. Existing personnel from nearby Colruyt Group stores was seconded for at least six months to help guide their new colleagues. Training courses and the mentor system were also used to onboard new logistics personnel as best as possible. “The team feeling between the ‘new’ and ‘old’ colleagues is growing fast. Such a conversion is a rollercoaster: selling everything and emptying a store was emotionally difficult, but in the week of conversion, this quickly turned into a great drive to be able to open under Comarkt/Comarché. I saw and felt a lot of pride. And that’s what we do it for,” Christophe Dehandschutter concludes.

* Some facts and figures:


Acquisition of 54 stores in total

  • 39 stores converted to Comarkt/Comarché in eight weeks
    • Hundreds of Colruyt Group co-workers across different departments contributed to the conversion project
  • The Belsele store, which was still listed for conversion on 4 March, will not become a Comarkt after all. The area is too small for a Colruyt Group format and options for this location are now being assessed. The store is closed and the personnel is now working at other Colruyt Group formats.
  • Six already franchised Match/Smatch stores in the deal are in transition to a Spar, talks with one independent entrepreneur are ongoing.
  • Seven stores to close for an extended period to then immediately open under the definitive Colruyt Group flag in the next year (3 Bio-Planet, 1 Colruyt Lowest Prices, 1 Cru, 1 Okay, 1 store still under consideration in Mechelen).
  • 955 new (sales) personnel were welcomed to the group.


A logistical tour de force:

  • Twelve extra trips per day on average, some with adapted transport types compared to classic Colruyt Lowest Prices/Okay transports
  • Additional 180 carts per day on average
  • Additional 32,000 orders (‘packages’) per day on average
  • Additional 235 order-picking hours per day on average
  • More than 120 new logistics co-workers recruited