ECONOMIC CULTURE. Yet another name made in Nord-Pas-de-Calais and not just any old one: but that of Gérard Mulliez, who gave birth to the retail giant Auchan, and is considered as one of wealthiest persons in France.
Gérard Mulliez, founder of the retail giant that goes by the name of Auchan, during an interview given to France 3 Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Photo credit: DailyNord
A right little proper…noun. French businessman, born in 1931, founder of the hypermarkets Auchan, and head of the northern family who have excelled in the retail trade. The Mulliez family are today behind such names as Décathlon, Leroy-Merlin, Boulanger, Kiabi, Pimkie, Jules or even Flunch. According to Capital magazine of July 2013, the family are today worth a staggering 24.55 billion Euros.
Gérard Mulliez is known for his interpretation of the word ‘economy’, in all the senses of the term. “I’m not a scrooge, but I am thrifty”. And I don’t mind people saying so, ‘cos then those around me spend less. That’s the way it is, I entertain ministers at Flunch and I turn off the lights left on in the corridor. A penny is a penny and I won’t be any happier for wasting it”, he explained at the World Forum at Lille in 2009.
Family legend has it that it all started when he was still a child and his parents (industrialists in wool production under the trade name Phildar), bestowed upon each of their offspring a 35 m2 plot of land to grow flowers and lettuce. The sales revenue of their produce served as pocket money. The first Auchan saw the light of day in Roubaix in 1961, in the district of Hauts-Champs, exactly where an old Phildar factory had once stood, once again donated by the parents. It was after a trip to the United States that Gérard Mulliez imported the idea of retail hypermarkets with their free parking and promotions.
Since 1955, to avoid their companies finding themselves on the stock market, the Mulliez’s have sealed a pact of “having a finger in every pie, same share and in all the companies”. Whatever the results, each of the 500 members of the family is shareholder in all the companies.
Since 1977, the employees can also invest in the company (representing 15% of the capital, in other words 2,500 million Euros). The group employs or works closely with 350,000 people (including 7,000 in China).
Other citations attributed to Gérard Mulliez:
“There’s no failure, there are only experiences. You should always experiment”.
“When you haven’t got any money, you have to make butter from water”, when speaking of Auchan’s managerial motto”.
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