Jérôme Loubère: Greece returns to growth

01 Δεκεμβρίου 2014 | Investing in Greece
Interview with the Managing Director of MARINOPOULOS S.A.




The economic footprint of the largest retail group in the country, its investment plan and the support offered to the Greek society.

What is the economic footprint of Marinopoulos S.A. in Greece? What are its financial data, how many points of sale does its branch network have and how many people does it employ?
The economic footprint of Marinopoulos S.A. can only be the economic footprint of the leading chain in the retail sector. It contributes more than 1% in Greek GDP and it remains a 100% Greek company. It maintains by far the largest sales network in Greece, with 874 Carrefour, Carrefour Marinopoulos, Carrefour Express, OK Anytime Markets, Smile Market & Terra Market stores, while the total number of outlets in Greece, Cyprus, Albania, Bulgaria and FYROM reaches to 934. Today, the company employs more than 13.000 employees and works with more than 2.000 suppliers.



As you have said in the past, the strategic investment planning of the group, earmarks total funds of 250 million Euros in 2014, with most of them relating to Greece. Can you tell us in which areas do you focus and what moves have been made until now?
This investment planning for the period 2012-14, is being completed with impressive results, especially in terms of the operation of an expanded operational sales network. Within the last six months, we have increased the points of sale in Greece from 730 to 874. Our strategic objective is to come even closer to the consumer. Besides that, continuous strengthening of trust with the general public is also an essential and enduring priority.
Among other things, the entire program also included the expansion of our network in Greece, Cyprus and the Balkans, and the upgrading of our infrastructure and services. In conditions of economic crisis and reduced consumption, we responded with extroversion and targeted investments. And we feel absolutely vindicated for our choices.

During the last months, the chain has completed acquisitions and other types of cooperation agreements, it has significantly increased its branch network, entering the market of cash & carry, it has introduced new formats, while insisting on the development of the franchise system. Can you tell us more about your actions and the strategy that you follow?
Regarding the development of the franchise model, I can confidently say that Marinopoulos S.A. proved itself a pioneer again for another time and extremely efficient in the design and implementation of the respective plan. We have considerably expanded our network and gave the opportunity for young entrepreneurs to do business for a minimum cost and with the support of the largest retail chain. If someone takes into consideration the economic climate of the last two years, he will understand that the design of our franchise stores was completely adapted both to the demands of the time, and the business planning of the company. Regarding the new formats, I will repeat the basic function principle of Marinopoulos that is the constant strengthening of trust with the consumer with strategic options that respond to the changing needs and growing demands of our customers. In this context, we can put the impressive upgrade and operation of four hypermarkets of Marinopoulos in Alimos, Gerakas, the Shopping Centre AVENUE and Thessaloniki (Carrefour «Macedonia»).
With spirit of innovation and extroversion and with the passion that distinguishes our business in everything we do, we will continue to work in order to fulfill our vision and to help our consumers enjoy a better quality of life.

What is your investment plan for the next year? Which development goals have you set and what kind of investments are you scheduling?
The strategic development of our network remains one of our basic plans.  It is very likely for you to hear important news in this direction in 2014. Meanwhile, we are completing an upgrade plan of the existing network infrastructure.
At the same time, the strategy of Marinopoulos S.A. will continue to be based on extroversion. We operate already 60 stores in Cyprus, Albania, Bulgaria and Macedonia and we will soon become active in the Serbian market.

Our key investment objective remains the constant upgrading of services provided to consumers at all levels. We seek and achieve quality products offering at competitive prices and we care in an active way for the needs of Greek households in every corner of the country and on an annual basis.
In this context we proceed a 30 million euros investment plan with focus on the bread market that contains the development of bake off corners in our stores and the development of a network of independent bakeries called "OK! Bread".

An integral part of Marinopoulos business activity is the dynamic offers policy that shows the company's commitment to contribute actively in the Greek society. How much have you invested for this and how do you plan to continue?
Marinopoulos S.A. was and still is the first company that has established a comprehensive and coherent promotional policy for the consumers benefit. And it will continue in the same direction, strengthening the long-standing relationship of trust that has built with them. In a period of prolonged recession for the country, we invest more than 60 million every year in price cutting in order to respond consistently and responsibly to the growing needs of our customers. Our leading position and our strong bargaining power, is enabling us to achieve the best deals and discounted prices for the benefit of our consumers.

You contribute in a significant way to the promotion of Greek products, with the implementation of the Greek Product Innovation Program. What is the philosophy behind this effort?
We are a 100% Greek company. And we remain the leading retail chain in the country. We believe in the proven skills of Greek producers. And we support actively their creative initiatives. A few months ago we completed successfully the Innovation program. More than 300 producers from all over Greece presented their products; seven of them have already won a place on the shelves of our stores.
We are constantly looking for the best products, while our basic objective is to meet the needs of the consumer at the lowest possible cost. In this context, the promotion and support of Greek products from every corner of Greece, is our priority. Moreover, the 96% of private label products are Greek, while results of recent research at the University of Macedonia showed that the 71% of products from the 240 that are placed on shelves of Carrefour are of Greek origin.

Marinopoulos S.A. has established a strong presence in Corporate Social Responsibility, especially with the award-winning program “Social Groceries”, that you plan to enhance. What is your program support of Greek Society include?
The protection and support of the social fabric is in the DNA of Marinopoulos. Operating for over 50 years in the Greek market, Marinopoulos works steadily with high sense of responsibility, recognizing that the greater one company is, the greater the commitment to the communities in which it operates shall be. Our philosophy has not changed. Unfortunately, in recent years the economic climate has changed. Many of our fellow men - that used to be our clients - reached to a point that they don't have access to basic necessities. We attempted, therefore, in an organized and effective way, to stand by their side. From 2007 until today, we do care for the smooth functioning of the three “Social Groceries” in Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki, investing the sum of one million Euros annualy. Up until now, the institution has supported 8.100 families by offering basic necessities on a daily basis.

These initiatives are the most known, because of the large urban population. However, all of our stores across the country are trying to contribute where it is necessary, to local communities.
Finally, part of our effort to support the Greek society is our discount policy for vulnerable groups and our aggressive offers policy.

Do you believe that we can now talk about the beginning of the recovery of the Greek economy? What else do you consider is necessary to be done in order to improve the domestic business and investment environment?
Our financial data for 2013 and the first signs of 2014 indicate that we are at the beginning of recovery. We can already see the first signs of reversal in the economic climate. I don't think, however, that the economy will change from one day to another. The recovery will be gradual and the financial problems, for a great part of the world, will remain intense. I am confident, however, that in the medium term Greece will return to significant levels of growth, based on entrepreneurship, innovation and quality production. The more stable the business environment of the country is and the more effective the bureaucracy combating will be, the sooner we will return to a significantly healthy development.