The investment activities of AB Vassilopoulos, its development plan, continuous offers and the vote of confidence of Delhaize Group in Greece.
In which way has AB Vassilopoulos left its imprint on Greece, who currently celebrates 75 years of active its in the domestic market? Which are its aggregates, how many outlets does it count and which is its workforce?
Given the circumstances prevailing in the market, 2013 was a good year for us. We achieved increased turnover and sales while raising our market share. Our investment, which amounted to €32 million, involved the opening of 17 new stores -company owned and franchise- and the creation of 993 new jobs. At the end of the year, our network consisted of 281 stores throughout Greece and 10,958 assiciates. At AB we consider human resources to be one of the most important pillars of our success; hence we did not only avoid performing wage cuts, on the contrary, we strengthened our investments in training and education of our assiciates. Generally, notwithstanding the negative inflation at 1%, we increased sales by 0.3% in comparable stores. For 2015 we have set the target of reaching €2 billion in net sales and so far everything is according to plan.
What is the amount of investments that have been implemented by your chain the last few years? Which areas did they involve?
The last three years we have carried out investments of €185 million relating to the expansion of our network, modernization of our facilities and development of innovative information systems. Also, at the same time our company paid taxes and other contributions amounting to €502 million, thus assisting significantly in boosting government revenues. All these along with the creation of new jobs helped significantly to stimulate the local market and in general the domestic economy. In terms of prices, we invested in continuous offers and price reductions on hundreds of products, appreciating thereby the trust shown by our customers. However, the most important and substantial investment we consistently implement for the last 75 years is the relationship of trust and mutual respect that we have built with our suppliers, partners and of course our customers.
Both the last and previous years, the chain has moved forward with the acquisition of small and medium-sized chains of the organized food retailing. Could you summarize these acquisitions as well as your strategy in this field?
At AB Vassilopoulos, we look thoroughly at each opportunity of acquisition that may arise, as long as it has prospects and positive impact on the company. In 2013, we made important steps, resulting in buying out nine stores from small supermarket chains, which enabled us to position ourselves in places with little or no presence.
What is the investment volume that you have planned for 2014 with target to expand your branch network? Will the acquisitions continue to take place?
In the near future, AB aims at, expanding its network by opening 32 new stores. Also, high in our priorities is the development of new promotional programs and price reductions always to the benefit of consumer. As far as acquisitions are concerned, we do not have something particular in mind at this moment but we are always open, examining offers that would generate sustainable results. Just to mention indicatively, we have planned to double the amount of investments compared to 2013, to around €75 million, which will involve the opening of new stores and renovation of existing ones.
Delhaize Group has recently proceeded with implementing a strategic investment in Greece, through the development of Centers of Excellence. What exactly does this investment involve and how can it benefit the Greek economy?
The creation of the Centre of Excellence (CoE) was a crucial milestone for us the last year. This Centre develops specialized software solutions in terms of retail. It shapes technology strategies, manages regional applications and infrastructure with the aim of establishing innovative and optimal practices for the development of the entire Group. Though this investment -which amongst others was the opportunity to create 30 new jobs, a figure expected to double in the near future- AB and Delhaize Group will take another step forward with respect to software systems and consequently to services.
A substantial component of your investments in the Greek economy is your partnerships with Greek suppliers and your actions for the promotion of Greek products abroad. Which exactly are your actions and to what investment volume do they correspond?
At AB Vassilopoulos, more than seven decades now, we believe in Greece and in Greek producers as a key element of our strategy. We collaborate with dozens of small and big Greek producers, whom we support by promoting and offering daily, to our customers, their high quality products, which we simultaneously export through our international network of stores. The rate of exports is increasing year by year; in 2013 it amounted to €7.2 million, increased by 2.2% compared with 2012.
You are actively engaged in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility is also reflected in the pricing policy you follow. In which way have you chosen to support the Greek society and the local consumer in this current difficult juncture?
Our philosophy is based in development combined with genuine respect to the market, to the people and the environment. It goes without saying that a large and modern company deserves the confidence of its customers only when it acts as a responsible corporate citizen. In this context, beyond the prices stated above, we implement other actions in our stores in support of the Greek society, collaborating with employees and consumers, while standing next to our major social partners, strengthening their initiatives.
Our continuous support towards the Greek Food Bank since its founding (by Gerasimos Vassilopoulos in 1995) until today, in conjunction with the support towards bodies and institutions constitute an established, a strategic decision and an integral part of our culture. To that end, our company launched last September a large Pan-Hellenic Corporate Responsibility campaign to support local communities, named “52 weeks, 52 Feeding and Care Actions all over Greece”. Our objective is to fund 52 institutions across Greece and help hundreds of our fellow citizens in need.
What is your comment on the course of the Greek economy towards recovery? What is the outlook of Delhaize Group on the Greek market and its dynamics?
It is undoubtedly a difficult juncture for making predictions. Some leading indicators have shown improvement but it will take time to see their reflection on society, so that the consumers can regain self-confidence. Yet, we are optimistic and we, indeed, see signs of stabilization.
Regarding the second part of your question, our partners at Delhaize Group firmly believe that Greece is a strategic market and have proven it through the major investments of over one billion euro implemented in our country the last 20 years. Delhaize Group exhibits confidence in the AB leadership and our Greek workforce and this is revealed by the fact that Greek executives have held important positions in the Group’s company in Southeast Europe. Regarding AB, all these years they have been convinced by our performance and by the fact that we apply the most appropriate strategy not only to respond to the difficult environment of the Greek market but also to raise our shares and sales.