A more professional product range and a return to bigger packages: that is how Makro Belgium wants to return to better ways. Its CEO Vincent Nolf admits the chain is currently "in intensive care", but hopes to see improvement already next year.
The Belgian branch of the German cash-and-carry chain is in dire straits, as the CEO admits: while its turnover dropped from 567 million euro three years ago to 482 million euro last year, the losses amounted to 25 million euro. Since 2011, each year 5 % fewer customers find their way to a Belgian Makro store. Still, there will be no new major job cuts as the CEO focuses on a new commercial strategy: "We have to give our customers reasons to return to our stores." He defines three objectives: 45,000 new customers anually, letting existing customers return more frequently and enticing them to larger purchases.
The unique mixture between professionals and users is an interesting starting point: Makro wants to lure in 'normal' customers with the idea that they can "buy like a pro": foodies and DIY enthousiasts can get access to products that usually are only available for professionals. The company also hopes to win back scouts and schools, who are looking for larger package sizes, but at the same time hopes to become more relevant for local customers. "We are testing a fast track for food: you can get in and out of our test store in Deurne in 15 minutes."
Will all this be enough to get back to winning ways? "I believe so: we still have a lot of fans in Belgium and as we have developed this plan together with our employees, we are sure that it will be implemented well." The pressure is high though: "At the end of 2019, we should really see a positive trend." However, the CEO does not count on a return to a positive profit in the next three years. Ending the Makro chain in Belgium has never been an option, Nolf said: this would have a major impact on its 'professional' sister Metro, which does grow and make a profit. "We aim for continuity: both chains reinforce and need each other."