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    Russian chain plans Dutch, French, Belgian invasion

    A VkusVill supermarket in Moscow

    Fast growing Russian food retailer VkusVill is opening a first store in the Netherlands. A French branch is planned as well, as part a worldwide expansion that may also include China and Belgium.


    Amsterdam, Paris and China. And Belgium?

    VkusVill, roughly translated as TasteVille, wants to open its first branch outside Russia in the coming weeks. The first planned store will open the Netherlands, in all probability in Amsterdam. The supermarket also has plans in France and China, and the company confirmed being interested in - but not having concrete plans for - Belgium. PR manager Anna Platova told our editor that: "We would like to find a Belgian team for market research and for possible store openings."


    The chain sees French expansion in particular as an experiment, since "old-fashioned retail business is not really adjusting to current needs" in the country, founder Andrey Krivenko told Reuters. The entrepreneur also sees the same problem on the Russian home market, which explains the rapid growth of VkusVill.


    "Change supermarket landscape forever"

    That the company means business in the Netherlands, is evident from the vacancy the company has opened there: the Russian chain is looking for a "Food Technologist" for the Dutch market. He or she has to select and adapt healthy products for the Dutch market, says the company. Its recipe for success, in Russia as well as in the planned expansion abroad, is its focus on healthy, fresh food, without artificial additives and with as many local products as possible.


    "We are building a revolutionary concept in a revolutionary way to change the Western European supermarket landscape forever", the job ad says. VkusVill says its target is to "help the whole of the Netherlands to eat healthily". For the time being, VkusVill NL is sharing an office with start-up studio Aimforthemoon in Amsterdam.


    1200 stores, zero loans

    In Russia, the supermarket chain opens a whopping two new stores each day: since its establishment in 2009, Krivenko has opened more than 1200?stores and the chain has achieved annual sales growth of 60%. The shops are mainly small, but in Moscow the chain is now also planning larger stores with their own cafeteria and wine assortment for the first time. In addition, VkusVill is rolling out mini shops in office buildings, where self-checkout is used. "Our concept is the result of hundreds of experiments", says Krivenko, who therefore sees no competition.


    VkusVill is currently considering an IPO, both on the New York Stock Exchange and in Moscow. Today, the founder and his management hold 88?% of the shares, the remaining 12?% is in the hands of an investment fund. It is striking that the chain has realised all expansions with its own resources: the food retailer has never borrowed money.