Yuppi, a new Cactus

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The cactus is a plant that "doesn't let itself be pushed around" and survives in difficult conditions. It's also a supermarket that, more than 50 years after the launch of its first store, is now opening the doors to its 73rd outlet and proving that the name its creator chose for it in 1967 couldn't have been better.

Luxembourg is probably the only country in the world where the word "cactus" doesn't conjure up an image of a plant in people's heads, but a supermarket.

This February 8, 2023, the brand celebrates the opening of its 73rd outlet. An opportunity to learn more about this new Cactus, to look back at the history of an emblematic brand in Luxembourg and the symbols that made its success.

With a smile on his face, Laurent Schonckert, administrator-director of Cactus, welcomes us to a meeting room on the first floor of the administrative building located at the back of the Belle Etoile.

Lëtzebuerger Journal: A new Cactus is opening today, February 8, 2023, in Roodt-sur-Syre. Can you introduce it to us in a few sentences?

Laurent Schonckert: The Cactus Roodt-sur-Syre is a plot of land of more or less 3 hectares on which the idea was to make a supermarket of human size, of about 3,000 m2 – a bit like the one in Bereldange (the very first Cactus, ed. note).

It's a Cactus that brings together all the group's strengths. The customer will be able to find 25,000 references, the majority of which are part of the classic food and fresh products. Fish, meat, cheese, pastries, charcuterie. Everything organic and local is on the agenda too, in addition to a Sushi Store of the Eat Happy brand and a Post point for example.

The gallery will have seven tenants and a deli de Schnékert Traiteur – a small restaurant with takeout, things to munch on and a cup of coffee in the morning – to round out a very complete offering. We've stopped the Inn.

In terms of parking, it's important to note that the Cactus is on a sort of hill, just like in Windhof. So there are 110 spaces in front of the door and 270 further down in the hollow. 380 spaces in all.

To date, we have invested 32,000,000 euros in the project.

Laurent Schonckert

The Roodt-sur-Syre Cactus

Laurent Schonckert on the Roodt-sur-Syre Cactus.

*in Luxembourgish

As discussed earlier, this new Cactus is located in Roodt-sur-Syre, in the eastern part of the country. What motivated you to open a supermarket in that area?

This is a part of the country where we had no presence at all. This element is important in the sense that we won't take a piece of our own cake away.

In addition, Betzdorf and its neighboring communities have seen their population increase by 25% in the last 10 years. These are surroundings that, through the Grevenmacher highway, are very accessible for people who work in the city. We've been looking to locate there for years and couldn't find land for many different reasons.

From first contact to the doors opening, it was 10 years. Construction took 30 months, so it took 7 years before the shovel was there, digging holes in the mud.


"The Roodt-sur-Syre Cactus is a Cactus that brings together all the group's strengths."

Laurent Schonckert, Director and CEO of Cactus

The very first Cactus supermarket opened in Bereldange in 1967. As of today, there are 16 in Luxembourg. How has the brand evolved in its 56 years of existence?

16 supermarkets is correct… But there are not just 16 Cactus.

There are also the hypermarkets, large stores like the Belle Etoile, where the assortment is even more complete. The Cactus marché, which can be found in more urban locations such as Rue de Strasbourg, Brill or Ettelbruck… These are smaller surfaces addressed to people who live in the neighborhood. The hobbi, specialized in leisure, and Cactus shoppi, very small stores that are, almost always, integrated with a gas pump, and deli from Schnékert Traiteur.

From a classic store – in Bereldange in 1967 – an adaptation took place. Luxembourg has changed demographically, economically. Today, there are 73 outlets that carry the Cactus logo; the 16 supermarkets accompanied by 9 Cactus marché, 4 hobbi, 40 Cactus shoppi and 4 deli de Schnékert Traiteur.

A good mesh of the small territory.

"A place where we were not yet present"

Laurent Schonckert on the location of the new Cactus in Roodt-sur-Syre.

*in Luxembourgish

Cactus has established itself through time, much like its plant which is known to survive in tough conditions. As for the name Cactus, rumor has it that it was taken from Jacques Dutronc's song, released in February 1967. Is this really the case?

I was asking myself the same question when I started. But Mr. Paul Leesch (founder of Cactus, ed. note) told me where the name Cactus comes from… and that story is false.

First, Cactus is an international name that everyone understands. In 1967, a movement began: the big chains all expanding overseas. From a marketing standpoint, it's an easy name that's not far-fetched.

The second and third reasons are directly related to the plant. Our first logo still looked like a real cactus with spikes, it represented a plant that doesn't let itself be pushed around. It was not yet as round as the current one, which has developed to be in the spirit of the times. Secondly, the cactus is also a plant that does not need much to survive. These two mottos appealed to Mr. Paul Leesch.

With 50 years of hindsight, we can say that the name still fits the brand well. The Dutronc song, Mr. Paul Leesch knew it…but it was not the origin of the name.

It's true that Cactus has managed to hold its own through the generations. Despite the adaptations necessary to survive in an ever-changing world and Luxembourg, has the brand always remained in line with its values?

Yes, very clearly. It was one of Mr. Paul Leesch's strengths that he instilled a good number of values in us. He was an iconic founder. We are careful to maintain his lines, but we have also added other responsibilities.

When I started, we were already a large company of 2,000 people. But today, we're almost 4,500. Automatically, your role changes. Of course, you have to sell your merchandise, but we feel that we can commit to other values as well. Organic, local, our labels… We have been supporting nature and the environment for a very long time with a good number of projects as well as charities.

All of this is stuff that wasn't there yet in 1967. Back then, the question was: Will Cactus be a success or a flop?

"Mr. Paul Leesch was an iconic founder. We're careful to maintain his lines, but we've also added other responsibilities."

Laurent Schonckert, Director and CEO of Cactus

Cactus is such a symbol for the Grand Duchy that it could almost be included in Luxembourg's heritage. This status fatally entails responsibilities as well…

Yes. To begin with, as I just said, we now have 4,500 workers. When you look at the statistics in Luxembourg, a household consists of an average of 2.6 people. If you extrapolate that, that's 10,000 people living off us.

Then there's the region. We have a lot of small and large suppliers that we're very important to. I'm not saying they wouldn't be anywhere if they didn't work with us anymore, but we've built something, there's trust. We shouldn't underestimate that.

With regard to charity, which I quickly touched on before and where we support sports, culture and social – just to name a few – we also have a responsibility. I am thinking, for example, of the food banks.

So we have a responsibility for our people, but also for others. We're not Caritas or the Croix-Rouge - we don't replace them. But where we think we can help, we do help.

According to the latest statistics, you're in the top three largest employers in the country. Will you move up in that ranking once the employees of the Cactus in Roodt-sur-Syre are added to your total?

Third place in sports is the bronze medal. (laughs)

People always think third place… "wow – that's great". But you have to have work for these people too. We're happy to be where we are, to see how far we've come, but there are responsibilities that come with it.

At Roodt-sur-Syre, of course there are going to be extra employees. In the gallery, too, people will be hired. In all, more than 70 people will work there.

If we will gain places in this ranking, I don't know. It's never been our goal to be ranked high in it.

Speaking of symbols, a question burns our tongue and surely that of many other Luxembourgers as well: where is Yuppi?

Yuppi still exists, Yuppi is not dead. (laughs) By necessity, Yuppi hibernated during the pandemic, he did a "Covid-Wanterschlof."

Yuppi is a great story. I was fresh out of college when our marketing manager at the time came up with the idea. I was a numbers guy, very square. I didn't think it was a good idea. I was completely wrong.

What we were able to do with him… As a company, you should never throw roses at yourself, but it was a great move. Thanks to him, we managed to do things in an educational way. Collaborations between school and business are like the devil and holy water: they don't fit at all. Going into schools with the Yuppi book, convincing teachers and the ministry, it had to be done!

I still regularly meet people who tell me that, as children, Yuppi was their friend. This does not lead to a direct purchase, but I think Yuppi has remained engraved in some. Your question confirms this.

So after 2 long years off, he is fresh. Clean, well-coiffed and motivated, he made his big comeback at the opening of the Cactus Roodt-sur-Syre yesterday.

The Cactus at Roodt-sur-Syre is in line with the so-called "new generation" Cactus. What exactly does that mean and why did you make the change?

The "new generation" Cactus are more spacious in the aisles, have new furniture and are more in gray tones, with new checkout areas for easier passage, new shelving, optimization of lighting to enhance the products.

The human being remains an animal of habit so we didn't want to make a revolution, but an evolution. It's difficult… If you change the design of a car too radically, some people will say "great" and others will say "but it's not my car anymore". So in order not to make a big mistake, we thought about it for a long time. We didn't do it overnight.

The classic Cactus customer – and I say that without any negative connotation – is rather conservative, but the challenge is also to go out and find all the others. The one who is a regular from Paris, London or wherever. If I look at the numbers, I think it was the right decision.

The Roodt-sur-Syre Cactus is also a green building. Not only because it features your brand, but more importantly because it is sustainable. Can you tell us more about that?

For starters, we've met every regulation, and there are more and more.

What's very special about this building is the green roof and facades that will be planted later this year. Something brand new. We're going to try to do this where we can. Photovoltaics are also in the works. We've already got them in some places.

One other little aspect that's very recent is an agreement with TotalEnergies for several electric car charging stations. The first ones are in Roodt-sur-Syre.


"We didn't want to make a revolution, but an evolution. We didn't opt for the 'new generation' Cactus overnight."

Laurent Schonckert, Director and CEO of Cactus

Now that the supermarket is open, what will you take away from this construction site?

The construction site had some delay issues. We would have liked to open it at the end of last year, but through all these shortages, it was delayed in its final phase.

What's always neat about a new store is the excitement of the employees when they see we're almost there. It's motivating. It's motivating for those who are there, who are working on the project, and for us who are saying, "We're opening a new supermarket!" Especially since it's been a while since we last opened one. It's something that goes around the company.

We also launched this site in the middle of Covid, which not everyone would have done. So to say as a company that we're going to launch a 30+ million project was also a sign to our employees. It shows them that Cactus is continuing. That we believe in the future.

In fact, the near future holds another big opening…

That's true. The next opening will be the Cactus Esch/Lallange (towards the end of 2024, ed. note). It's another construction site that we launched during the pandemic and the biggest Cactus that will open in the next few years because Luxembourg – even if there is a big demographic evolution – is still only a country of 650,000 people and not 6,500,000.

I'm not saying there will never be another big project – like the Belle Etoile, the Cloche d'Or or the City Concorde – after this one, but I have a hard time imagining it. It will depend on the development of certain neighborhoods.

The Cactus of Esch/Lallange, planned for end 2024

Laurent Schonckert on the Esch/Lallange Cactus project.

*in Luxembourgish