Catalin Pozdarie, CEO of Hervis Sports Romania, rejoins BR’s landmark retail & logistics conference, re:FOCUS on eCommerce, Retail & Logistics 2022 edition, after also being a speaker in 2021. Previewing Business Review’s first event of the year, we sat down with the Hervis CEO to talk about the evolution of retail and eCommerce over the past year and the prospects of 2022.
How did the retail sector in Romania look like this year and how was this seen in sales?
The retail sector has been strongly influenced this year by all major factors: pandemic, rapid changes in consumer behaviour caused by both pandemic and economic and political uncertainty, changes in the distribution chain, health crisis. Sales have fluctuated, rising during periods of relaxation of the pandemic and tending towards an apparent normality and falling again with the new waves. A fairly predictable development, but one that will unfortunately create large gaps in the overall economy through the domino effect it will create.
How has the consumption behaviour of buyers changed during this period?
Consumption behaviour changed strongly at the beginning of the pandemic, with the majority of shoppers migrating online during the lockdown period, a trend that has continued at a high level after the lockdown. Another aspect that we have identified in the changes in consumer habits, in addition to the strong digitalisation, is the importance given to health, in the sense that many of our customers have started to have a more active lifestyle, to be more attentive to nutrition and quality of life. We have also noticed the orientation towards products made in Romania, to support the local economy, the local producers.
How difficult is it to “keep” customers in the store nowadays, amidst the economic uncertainty generated by the coronavirus pandemic but also the internal developments of economic and political instability?
There are studies that show that many customers, once they switched to online shopping, rarely or never came back to physical stores and continued shopping online. But there are also many customers who prefer to see the products, to try them before buying. Fear of getting sick is just one of the reasons why customers choose to shop online. But what affects store traffic and sales more is the growing economic uncertainty. Amidst political instability, this is even more pronounced.
What is your sales level compared to the predictions made last year/early this year for 2021?
Sales are just as expected given the influences already listed above.
Which product categories have recorded the highest sales?
As we mentioned at the beginning, many of our customers have started to put more emphasis on healthier lifestyles. This has involved equipment for various sports, from running, cycling, mountain walking, hiking, summer and recently winter sports. From our customers’ choices it is clear that many are preparing for an outdoor winter, purchasing quality clothing with technically designed features, whether it’s a walk in the park, skiing or snowboarding.
How do you see the evolution of the retail sector and eCommerce in Romania in 2022, taking into account 2 scenarios: The continuation (intermittent waves) of the pandemic or its extinction at a certain time this year?
Unfortunately, if at the end of last year no one could imagine that we would continue this year with so many waves of the pandemic, now, at the end of this year, thinking about next year, we realize that the retail sector will be affected, regardless of the scenario. A total relaxation will not be possible any time soon, even in the most optimistic scenario.
What is important is that the retail sector also adapts to the new reality and finds a new business model that allows it to grow, both stationary and online.
Regarding eCommerce, the digitisation trend will continue regardless of next year’s scenarios. This sector is also affected and will continue to be affected by economic instability, the uncertainty generated by the health crisis, politically and economically.
How has the e-commerce sector evolved in Romania in 2021, the second year of the pandemic?
The e-commerce sector continued to be very important, with many of our customers maintaining their preference for digitalisation developed at the beginning of the lockdown period. Many out of convenience, but many also out of fear of exposure in other people’s spaces.
What do you think will be the trends in eCommerce in Romania in the medium and long term?
As we all know, Romanians are big consumers of internet, innovation and technology, therefore the companies that will manage to deliver in the fastest and most advantageous way for the customer will win. The leap made by the eCommerce sector in the last year and a half is remarkable, we expect this evolution to continue next year.