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A taste for innovation: Claude Sarrailh

A leading international wholesale specialist since 1964, METRO prides itself on catering to the individual tastes of 21 million wholesale customers in 35 countries around the world. Powered by a global workforce of 150,000 people, the business provides custom solutions through its various sales brands, delivery services and digitalisation initiatives.

The business has a strong track record in meeting regional and international needs with a focus on customers, digital solutions and sustainable business models.

Claude Sarrailh CEO of METRO China
Claude Sarrailh, CEO of METRO China

In 1996, METRO Cash and Carry, the international pioneer in self-service wholesale, opened its first store in Shanghai, introducing a brand-new business concept to the country. Today, it is present in 59 Chinese cities with a total of 95 stores, 11,000 employees, and more than eight million customers around the country – achieving sales of RMB20.34 billion in FY2016–17.

Having been with METRO since 2006, in leadership positions across Romania, Poland, Russia and Italy, it would be a gross understatement to say METRO China CEO Claude Sarrailh is one of METRO’s strongest human assets.

“The scope I’ve gained working in different departments in different regions within the company has helped me develop strong commercial knowledge. It has also instilled in me a sense of duty towards my employees and the country I’m living and working in at the time,” Claude explains.

“Our market comprises eight million loyal customers, and it’s our job to understand what they want and how we can best communicate with them to serve their needs.”

Focusing on different customer groups, METRO China is developing multiple sales channels including O2O stores, Foodservice Distribution, Welfare and Gifting, and ecommerce. “In China, METRO is reaching new heights compared with our European markets.

The growth we’re experiencing is rapid because China is leading the world in the way we manage smart transit and how we treat our customers both online and offline,” Claude explains. “However, this also presents a challenge in the way we handle all this new data and the fact that our competitors are advancing as well.


Claude Sarrailh’s best piece of advice:

“Listen before you do anything. Taking time to listen and look before you start acting is something every person needs to do more of.”

According to Claude, METRO China’s culture is based on efficiency, safety and quality. “These qualities are evident in our businesses around the globe – it’s in our DNA. We set high compliance standards for ourselves and our customers, because every action has a direct impact on the organisation,” he explains. “If you don’t trust and respect your people and your customers, then they won’t trust or respect you. In China, we do both these things well.”

With a strong sense of social responsibility, METRO has always been striving to assume its duties as a corporate citizen while achieving sustainable business growth.

It has made huge contributions to the improvement of China’s food safety system, including building and turning existing stores into green stores, setting up solar power stations and upgrading the refrigerating systems, to reduce energy consumption and emissions.

Claude Sarrailh CEO of METRO China

Given the size and scope of its global business, METRO brings ample job opportunities and advanced management concepts wherever it operates, to improve the product quality of local suppliers and small and medium-sized businesses. “We always look to establish long-term relationships with our partners so that when we succeed, they succeed also,” Claude explains.

METRO continues to include more Chinese companies in its global distribution and sales network, to help them sell their products to international markets.

Looking to the future, Claude says METRO China will continue to do what it has always done – understanding its customers and delivering a wide assortment of retail and wholesale food solutions to China. “We are an innovative company founded on safety, food quality and trust.

“As one of the leading food retailers in the country and the leading national food service distribution company, we know people love our products and we’re determined to see this continue,” he explains.

“Chinese people want top-of-the-range products and that’s exactly what we deliver.”

“Chinese people want top-of-the-range products and that’s exactly what we deliver. We’re getting more involved in hospitality and restaurants because our products are in demand, but we also want to continue to sell customers what they need to buy for themselves via our stores.”

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