Claude Ganser, manager of the Cactus supermarket in Howald, speaks with Delano’s Jess Baudry during a visit of the shop’s temporary location on 25 January 2017
Photo: LaLa La Photo
It is 8am on 25 January and, despite being called out at 1am over a chiller which broke down, Cactus Howald manager Claude Ganser is full of energy. Today is the day he opens the store in what will be its home for the next 18 months, in the car park beneath the existing supermarket.
“The shop closed on Tuesday last week for the move and reopened today,” he says. “It’s a first for Cactus, which has never closed a shop for a week.”
The closure enabled staff to help move stock into the new 2,400 square metre underground premises ready for the grand reopening. The transformation is dramatic.
The additional 400 square metre that the shop’s new home offers gives the sense of a much bigger and brighter store, with wider aisles, lined with packed, grey shelves. Only the floor surface reminds shoppers this was once a car park.
As the manager guides us through the new shop space, it is clear some of the traditional Cactus layout has been retained, with the perfume counter at the entrance and café and florists by the exit.
Maps are handed out to guide shoppers around the goods aisles, whose layout has changed.
Meanwhile, the small shops and services which were formerly housed in the entrance of the old shop, including Mr Minit, Kiosk, Orange, 5 à sec and Voyages Weber, have moved to container buildings located in the original open-air car park, where the grill stand is also found.
Claude Ganser, manager of the Cactus supermarket in Howald, speaks with Delano’s Jess Baudry during a visit of the shop’s temporary location on 25 January 2017. Picture: Lala La Photo
Back on the shop floor downstairs, Ganser suggests customer numbers are starting to return to pre-closure levels. In one aisle, a customer asks Ganser “Are you happy?” and the two chat. Later, another shopper asks the manager where to find something, as if he was still the shop assistant he started out as 32 years ago.
“We’ve our regular customers. It makes me happy they have come back and are curious to explore the place,” the manager says.
Big renovation plans
Ganser is calm now but the months leading up to this move were tense. He explains: “The biggest challenge for me was coordinating the two shops over the festive season at the end of last year. That’s the busiest time of year for us.
The move, which was several years in planning, was necessary to update the existing store, which opened in 1989.
Empty aisles inside the section of the Cactus supermarket in Howald that will be closed for renovations over the next 18 months, pictured on 25 January 2017. Image: Lala La Photo
“New European rules mean that we have to do things a certain way. We have to update everything on a technical basis.”
Work is yet to begin on the old shop space, which is closed to the public for the next 18 months. Without its shelves and displays, the interior is barely recognisable.
The renovations are not, however, an expansion. Ganser explains that the shop is located between a railway track and motorway preventing outward expansion.
With a new Auchan supermarket scheduled to open a stone’s throw away at the Cloche d’Or, Cactus Howald will need to be at the top of its game to compete with the French chain.
“We do what we can with the space we have,” the manager says, adding that the store plays to the Luxembourg chain’s strength: personal service, quality goods and shopping on a manageable scale.