By Gabriela Mello
SAO PAULO, June 19 (Reuters) - Brazilian food retailer GPA is launching a new business-to-business e-commerce platform, an executive told Reuters, aiming to double its customer base in the segment by the end of 2019.
The digital platform for wholesale deliveries to bars, restaurants and other small and mid-sized businesses, is part of GPA's push into the wholesale market, where competition is stiff as Brazil recovers tepidly from a deep recession.
GPA, the local subsidiary of France's Casino Guichard Perrachon SA, began wholesale deliveries in the city of Sao Paulo and surrounding areas four years ago under an initiative known as Aliados Minimercado.
Its fast-growing Assai unit, which sells discounted goods in a warehouse setting, continues to operate solely as a brick-and-mortar chain.
"It is complementary, but also an independent format with its own commercial and distribution model," Marcelo Rivero, manager for Aliados Minimercado, said in an interview on Tuesday.
The new digital platform is expected to contribute 10% of total deliveries by year-end, he added, and to help double the number of Aliados Minimercado's active customers by December, from around 500 currently.
"We basically doubled the growth rate in deliveries to 25% from 15% earlier this year and we hope to keep this fast pace to become a major competitor in wholesale deliveries," Rivero said, adding online orders are delivered in Sao Paulo within 72 hours free of charge.
GPA does not break out sales for Aliados Minimercardo, and the executive declined to say how much GPA had invested in the e-commerce platform. The plan is to expand wholesale deliveries to other regions in Brazil in coming years, according to Rivero.
GPA shares have risen almost 8% so far in 2019, well behind rival Carrefour SA, which has gained more than 24%. (Reporting by Gabriela Mello; editing by Brad Haynes and G Crosse)