French retailer Casino is investing E90m in a major retail development close to St Etienne that will serve as a prototype for new hypermarkets around the world. The 17,000 sq m site at Andrézieu-Bouthéon, west of Lyon, will include an 11,000 sq m hypermarket, 4,000 sq m of specialised stores and a 1,900 sq m shopping centre. Expansion manager Philippe Jovignot said: "We could have gone somewhere else but we believe Casino's international development must take off from its roots. Concepts developed in this hypermarket will be revolutionary and suitable for countries all around the world." Special features include coloured flooring, a fresh products area organised along the lines of traditional outdoor markets and a circular women's universe' section stocking babyfood, women's clothing and health and beauty products. Casino also plans to install a training centre. Executives from Casino's joint venture partners in North and South America, eastern Europe, Thailand and the Netherlands will be invited to attend theoretical and practical training sessions lasting four to six weeks for a "complete education in the Casino way of working," explained Jovignot. "The Casino idea is to create partnerships with local chains with the objective to become leader or co-leader in three years. Thanks to the big hypermarket, they will be able to see full-size concepts." Casino's recent move into the Dutch market through a 37% stake in the number two grocery retailer Laurus provided a major new opportunity to test the new retail concept, said Jovignot. The first priority is to stabilise Laurus' situation and try to sell cash-draining operations in Spain and Belgium. However, after 12 months, Casino will start looking at developing new larger store formats in the Netherlands, where market leader Ahold has recently launched a new hypermarket format under the Albert Heijn XL fascia. {{NEWS }}