Anne and Franck started in Alenquer, Lisbon in 1999, with their first supermarket, but quickly realised that the south of Portugal would have a lot more to offer. When they took over the management of Intermarché de Lagos, four Intermarché stores in the Algarve barlavento, Lagos, Lagos Avenida, Alvor and Aljezur, they fondly remember the first supermarket in the south of Portugal: the Intermarché de Lagos. And much has changed since they first walked through those doors.

“We work to create a cohesive image, so we remodelled the entire building, always with the goal of providing the best conditions of comfort to customers, without forgetting the employees”, they said. The last remodeling was completed in 2017, which is when they also introduced a FNAC into the same space. Additionally, they transformed the back offices, break rooms and dressing rooms, always with the aim of providing the best conditions for the people who work with them, so that they in turn will always be welcoming and with a smile on their face.

It wasn’t always easy. “We learned from difficult moments, because in the beginning we started with more difficult supermarkets and then we bought the Lagos supermarket, which at the time was already known as one of the best and from 2007 when we entered here we began to open the other stores. After some less easy adventures we established roots here”, said Anne Saintemarie.

At Intermarché, the business model is also very interesting. Despite being a franchise, there is a very well established communication between the owners and the central office. Every week, the owners take two days to go to the central supermarket to decide the commercial strategy together with the other owners of the other Intermarché’s. This model has many advantages, mainly because it allows owners to present problems that have been raised in their own supermarkets, or to find solutions, ultimately bringing the brand closer to the final consumer. Intermarché, started as a French company, and at the moment they have more than 250 supermarkets distributed across the country.

Anne explains better: “It’s like a franchise, but we have more independence. Each owner has to go to the centre weekly to participate, give feedback on what is going on and we will influence the professionals who are in our area. That is the difference from pure franchising and Intermarché franchising. This is super relevant because everything is dealt with on the ground”.

There are no big results, without big dreams. “Our vision is to bring something fundamental, which is to eat better and with sustainability. We have the possibility to carry out our project at each point of sale, the centre gives us some guidelines, but leaves us open to making our dream come true”, said Anne.

Shopping at Intermarché can also be an exciting experience. We can find new surprises around each aisle. In fact, happy customers are what anyone who works in the food sector should aspire to. Here in Intermarché, this is exactly what we are able to find. “Most of the surprises work very well; people are looking for these kinds of things. They are looking for sushi that is being made on the premises, looking for a pizza that they are able to see people making - what they see there is what they take home, there is no mystery around it”, said Anne. In addition to these, we can find much more, including orange juice and smoked salmon which are fresh and have an unmistakable taste.

Some more examples of surprises that we are able find while we are walking around Intermarché Lagos, include peanut butter and nutella that can be made by each one of us, using the small machine that Intermarché has provided for us, organic products in bulk, which is something that is not usually found because organic products are usually sold in plastic packages. In addition, when we end our supermarket shopping we find the solidarity kiosk in front of the cashier desks.

What is the solidarity kiosk? It is a space that exists for only three weeks, in which other small traders have the opportunity to sell their own products in order to increase their visibility for free, that means that the person who will sell their products isn’t obliged to pay to the Intermarché owners for being there. This can help lots of traders who take advantage of this opportunity.

Anne gives an example of a man who usually sells caramel in fairs. “He used to sell caramel at fairs”, said Anne. However, as we all know, fairs are not currently allowed because of the pandemic and due to the possibilities of spread the virus in that kind of space/event. So this man, like many others, was unable to sell his products like he usually did before. For this reason, he decided to be present for three days at the Intermarché supermarket, and it was a success! So, currently the man has a space for him to sell his product in the solidarity kiosk. For Anne, this is not an act of charity. “We do it because we need to, we need the people around us. Caramel is made by this man, nowadays it is no longer made, and it makes us feel nostalgic for what we ate before. The idea is to help others, while others help us, we all live together, we share the same country and we must promote the circular economy. This is our role”, she said.

Additionally, Intermarché’s commercial strategy always takes sustainability issues into account, it is impossible to escape this central theme that involves more than one area: ecological, social, economical and human.

Related to social sustainability: “We know that we are able to do it and we do it as far as possible. We help associations (such as Fonte da Vida – an Association in Lagos) that supports needy families. Also we try to have a circular economy. Without having a huge budget to give, we try to help in whatever way we can, like when some food from the take away is left, we have only two options, we can give it to an association that supports people in need, or we can throw it in the trash. Of course, it is our responsibility to choose the first. We, like any entrepreneur, have a greater ability to get in touch directly with people that need our help”, she said.

For the owners of the company, Anne and Franck Saintemarie, their mission is not just about providing food. Of course, that is their primary main goal, but after that they always try to contribute to increasing green options, in the human valorisation of their staff, as in betting on a circular economy in which they prioritise their involvement in the community, establishing that 20 percent of its products must be local products. For this reason, sustainability is the most fundamental pillar of their business. Furthermore, all these choices help to make a supermarket that has been designed specifically for the customer in mind.