Frac (Fédération Nationale d’Achats des Cadres, or National Shopping Federation for Managers) is an international entertainment retail chain. Depending on your personal level of cynicism, it can be considered either a democratic, working class hero of distributing cultural and electronic goods, or the company with the best PR in the world.
Fnac not only sells affordable, diverse products (music, DVDs, books, software, hardware, games, photographic equipment, TVs, telephones, basically anything electronic), but also organises various cultural events. They have a testing centre which evaluates the quality of products and engage in campaigns against exclusion, racism and censorship.
Fnac was founded in 1954 by André Essel and Max Théret. The objective was to serve both the commercial and consumer industries. Cutting the standard retail mark-up (as high as 50 percent elsewhere) on its products down to as low as 15 percent made products more affordable and increased the purchasing power of the worker. The first shop was opened in a sublet, a second-floor apartment on the rue de Sebastopol in Paris in 1954. All sales assistants were trained in their product categories, with purchases being guaranteed for one year.
Fnac also holds multiple ‘forums’ throughout the year, which are opportunities for customers to have open dialogue with notable people such as Pedro Almodóvar, George Lucas or David Cronenberg, discussions with authors and concerts.
Each year a ‘Book Fair’ is held with discussions among writers, opinion leaders, politicians and the public. Topics related to literature, culture, society and the sciences are discussed. Since 2001 the company has also annually presented an award, Le prix du roman Fnac, whose winners are chosen by an independent panel of booksellers and members. Dominique Mainard, Pierre Charras and Pierre Péju are among those who have won. These events are shown on the company website fnaclive.com.
Fnac participates in campaigns against exclusion, racism and censorship. In 2003, the firm began a five-year plan to combat illiteracy among schoolchildren.
The company is also committed to defending the diversity of music. In February 2002 Fnac published with UPFI (Union des Producteurs Phonographiques Français Indépendants) ‘Manifeste pour la diversité musicale’, as a prelude to a policy of favourable treatment for independent labels and their artists.
Fnac was founded in 1954 as a members-only buyers’ club to sell discounted equipment with lower retail mark-up through the magazine ‘Contact’. It also operated its own testing centre, evaluating the quality of products. After opening to non-members in the 1960s, Fnac began to expand and is now the largest retailer of its kind in France.
Fnac was founded in 1954 by André Essel and Max Théret as a members-only discount buyers’ club. The objective was to serve both the commercial and consumer industries, offering discounted equipment through a magazine titled Contact, and by cutting the standard retail mark-up (as high as 50 percent elsewhere) on its products down to as low as 15 percent, thereby making products more affordable and increasing the purchasing power of the worker. The first shop was opened in a sublet, a second-floor apartment on the rue de Sebastopol in Paris on July 31, 1954. The company marked its difference from the competition with a ‘unique brand positioning based on the exaltation of pleasure to discover the diversity of cultures and technologies’. All sales assistants were trained in their product categories, with purchases being guaranteed for one year. Furthermore, all products were evaluated in the company’s independent test centre before sale. The test centre would check for technical quality, ease of use, price and the ‘price/quality ratio,’ and all results were published in the company’s free members’ magazine Contact, which today can also be found advertised in store. In addition, staff were expected to do more than just sell their products, but offer advice to customers and, beginning in 1957, blacklist any unsatisfactory products, such as those with technical difficulties. By the end of its first full year of operation the company saw revenues of 50 million old francs. In 1957, it was selling televisions, hi-fis, recording equipment, radios and records.
In 1966, the Fnac store was opened to non-members and began to expand, opening its second store in 1969. By this time, the company had 580 employees.
The founders sold 40 percent of the company to insurance firm Union des Assurances (AXA) to raise money to fund growth.
SGCC, however, maintained a 51-percent control of the company, which now employed more than 2,700 and was declaring turnover of FFr 2.2 billion.
In 1992, the fate of FNAC Librairie Internationale, featuring books in languages other than French, was sealed and it closed after only a year of trading.
In 1991, the first Fnac store was opened in Berlin. In 1993, the first Fnac store was opened in Madrid, Spain. However, the Fnac Music subsidiary, while posting some successes, failed to live up to the company’s expectations and was unable to gain more than a 2-percent market share. It was eventually sold off the distribution arm WMD, which shut down Fnac Music in 1994.
The deal came under scrutiny by the Commission des opérations de bourse (COB), but was allowed to proceed in September 1993.