Carrefour S.A., a French multinational retail group, will open after all its first supermarket in Armenia later this year following a more than yearlong delay, it was announced on Thursday.
“In about six months we will be operational,” Christian Denal, a senior Carrefour executive, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) during the inauguration of a new shopping mall in Yerevan which is due to house the big food store.
“We are very happy to be present in Armenia for the benefit of all Armenian people and customers,” said Denal. “This is very important to us.”
The new shopping center, called Yerevan Mall, was inaugurated in the presence of President Serzh Sarkisian and other senior Armenian officials. Its executive director, Vazrik Sarkoyan, confirmed the impending opening of a Carrefour supermarket there, saying that it is scheduled for the third quarter of 2014. He said the French retail group, one of the largest in the world, will occupy one-sixth of the mall’s 60,000-square-meter commercial space.
Carrefour planned to launch its first Armenian store at another Yerevan mall, Dalma Garden, shortly after it opened its doors to customers in late 2012. However, those plans were put on hold for still unclear reasons. The French company cited the need for further “research of the Armenian market.”
Reports in the Armenian press last year accused Samvel Aleksanian, one of the country’s richest men, of using his close ties to the Armenian government and the Dalma Garden owner, Russian-Armenian billionaire Samvel Karapetian, to thwart Carrefour’s entry into the Armenian market. Both Aleksanian and the government denied that.
The government has insisted all along that it is interested in having the world-famous retailer set up shop in Armenia, saying that its presence will send a positive signal to other foreign investors.
Denal refused to be drawn on Carrefour’s reported problems with Dalma Garden. “Let’s talk about the future,” he said. “All Armenians are waiting for Carrefour and we will do everything in our power to satisfy them.”
Incidentally, Aleksanian, who owns one of Armenia’s largest supermarket chains called Yerevan City, was also present at the opening of the new mall. The government-linked tycoon declined to comment on Carrefour’s operations in the country. “I don’t engage in business,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.