His parents went there "two, three times" before resuming their habits at small shops in the area, but he and his wife Odile, 67, have become loyal customers.

"We've been coming for twenty years," says the husband, 70, filling the trunk of his car. Because of inflation, their shopping cart is no longer as full as before, but out of the question for these retirees to go to a "hard discount" brand, where the choice is less according to them.

And to give a specific example: "here, if I want whelks for lunch, I go out with whelks, while in Lidl, I will only find a can of sardines".

"Even if Lidl is cheaper, it's less good," said Martine Plançon, a 71-year-old retiree. She has frequented this hypermarket for forty years because "it's the closest" to her home, explains this resident of Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois.

The city of 36,000 inhabitants, about twenty kilometers south of Paris, is particularly known for its Russian cemetery, where the filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky or the dancer and choreographer Rudolf Nureyev are buried, and its dungeon.

Sagan as godmother

Located opposite this eighteenth-century building, the hypermarket inaugurated on June 15, 1963 was blessed by a priest and sponsored by Françoise Sagan.

At the time, it covered 2,500 m2 and had 450 parking spaces. It now covers 8,400 m2 and can accommodate up to 900 vehicles.

Inside, signs hang from the ceiling indicate the upcoming anniversary and the shelves line up promotions.

A godsend for Véronique Brunet: every week, she spends between 100 and 110 euros on shopping for her, her husband and her 24-year-old daughter. This 61-year-old Atsem (educational assistant) does not want to "run 50,000 stores" to keep her budget and prefers to watch for "good promotions" in the hypermarket where she has her habits.

Andrée and Christian Lherm, 78 and 85 years old, do not want to multiply the brands to "earn three cents".

If they do the majority of their shopping in Carrefour, they nevertheless prefer to turn to small shops to buy meat and vegetables, and are long-time customers of the butcher shop run by Nathalie Didier de Fresnes, in the city center.

- 'Rich' shopping life -

For this 58-year-old butcher, Carrefour is not a competitor, because the supermarket "does not do the same job", explains the shopkeeper who highlights the "quality" of its products.

The hypermarket "does not overshadow" small traders, insists Lydia Biancardi, president of the association of traders and craftsmen of the city. It is even "complementary" to the shops in the city center because it offers different products.

"There is no shopping mall" in this hypermarket "on a human scale", likely to compete with the 350 local shops in the city, stresses the mayor, Frédéric Petitta (DVG): "all this works rather well".

"There is a very rich commercial life" in the city and "we are very proud to have this Carrefour," he adds.

For Biancardi, the main competitor of the Carrefour is the nearby Lidl, which reopened a few weeks ago after modernization work. Élodie Frère, 40, remains loyal to Carrefour but goes more and more often to this discount store to buy meat, which she finds of good quality.

"The food budget is increasing," says the childminder. She spends 250 euros a week on a family of two children, a dog and a cat, as well as the four babies she looks after during the day.

She does not want to cut back on quality, but "if you can earn 30 euros a week, it's always taken".

© 2023 AFP