The Carrefour retail group is good at many things, such as operating supermarkets, but I suggest that its marketing gurus leave a lot to be desired when it comes to naming their stores.
A case in point is the outlet in the neighbouring village of Cénac, about 10 kilometres from Daglan, where there used to be a Carrefour store called Shopi. Now I know that “shopping” isn’t a French term, but everyone seemed to understand the store’s purpose, and the name Shopi is kind of catchy.
Then, for some reason, the Carrefour marketing brain trust decided to give a new name to all its mid-size supermarkets, like Shopi. I wrote about a major renovation project at the Cénac store in 2017 (which was primarily to modernize and enlarge the front of the building), and in a post on October 31, 2017, I showed how the revamped store looks — with its new name in place:
Yes, it’s Contact. Or Carrefour Contact, if you recognize the company’s logo. I don’t know about you, but to me Contact doesn’t suggest a supermarket. Maybe a type of cement, maybe a tire (in fact, I think the tires on my VW include Contact as part of their name). But not a place to shop. Ah well.
However, the naming gurus at Carrefour never rest. A few days ago, as we were driving out of our village, Jan and I went past the 8 à Huit (“8 to 8”) store in the centre of Daglan, and noticed two workmen attaching large, attractive decals to the front windows of the store. I thought they were simply freshening it up. But no — they later attached a new name to the store itself: Proxi. Or more expansively, Proxi super (the word “super” is in much smaller type), with a drawing of a shopping cart in the “o” of Proxi.
And here’s what our convenience store/small supermarket looks like now, with the new signage in place:
If the name Contact seems weak, Proxi seems to hit new depths. I’m not sure what it will mean to the French, but to Anglophones it might suggest “proximate,” as in being near something, or maybe “immediate.”
When I checked out Merriam-Webster on line, to see the origins of the word, here’s what I learned:
Middle English proxi, procucie, contraction of procuracie, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin procuratia, alteration of Latin procuratio procuration.
Despite the naming goofiness, the store itself remains a vital part of our village. The couple who operate it are quite wonderful — helpful, friendly, knowledgeable. And of course the store supplies all kinds of essentials, from basics like milk and butter and vegetables to items as diverse as ice cream and greeting cards. In the off season, it’s closed on Mondays, and on Sundays it’s closed in the afternoon. But it’s generally open for a good number of hours in the morning and the afternoon.
Maybe the problem for Carrefour was that the name 8 à Huit made a promise (“We’re open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.”) that simply could not be fulfilled. That was made abundantly clear to Jan and me in late December of 2004, when we travelled to Daglan to take possession of the house we had bought in the autumn.
We had flown overnight from Toronto to Paris, but our plane was delayed from landing on time because of fog. Because of the delay, we missed our train to Gourdon, so we had to kill time in the Gare d’Austerlitz and catch a later train. By the time we reached Gourdon and secured a rental car and drove to Daglan, it was 7 p.m. and pitch black.
We knew that there was virtually nothing in our house except furniture — no food, no plates, no glasses, no cutlery, no paper towels, and so on. But were we worried? No! We were confident that the 8 à Huit was open until 8 p.m., and so we had plenty of time to shop.
Wrong. The store was closed, and as pitch black as the night. In desperation, we drove all the way back to Gourdon and managed to eat dinner in a hotel we knew. We were the last diners that evening. And we had learned our lesson — in France, you need a good amount of local knowledge, and can’t necessarily rely on signs.