As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 20th of December, 2018, as a group, Orion achieves revenue of about 6 million euro and is constantly investing in security, consumer education, and further innovation. Owing to the constant investment and care of their business, Koprivnica is set to get a huge cash injection, and new work positions are set to be opened.
Poslovni Dnevnik talked with Damir Šimunic, the founder and owner of Koprivnica’s Orion, about the situation and the development of the market for pyrotechnics in Croatia and the wider region, the business plans of the company, and the latest investment in Podravina.
In which countries is Orion the market leader?
As a company, we’ve existed for more than twenty years and the word ”leader” carries with it a huge responsibility. If you think about where the Orion Group does business under that [title], most of it is done in neighbouring countries, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. In Croatia, we’ve established a serious business system based on the professionalism and an innovative approach with pyrotechnics, which today, primarily, is mainly in the entertainment world. Over the years, we’ve become the leading specialised company for producing and distributing entertainment pyrotechnics, fireworks, and stage effects. As a company, we’re oriented towards the development of new products in order to meet the needs of a more demanding market.
How did you manage to break even on Western markets such as Austria or Belgium?
In Croatia, there is a fairly regulated market for pyrotechnics, because we’re part of the European Community, but on the western markets the laws are very rigorous and without the required quality [standard] you can’t be competitive. Foreign distributors have recognised our product quality as well as our distribution service, so we started working with Austria and Belgium over time. All our pyrotechnics have CE certificates, which is the European standard today, and a prerequisite for sales on the EU market.
Why did you decide to go into the world of pyrotechnics?
Like all kids, I liked pyrotechnics during my childhood and over time, that game turned into work. In those years, especially during the 1990s, the pyrotechnic market was not regulated and as a company we were actively involved in drafting regulations and then developing the market in accordance with those regulations. After that, from a small family business, I managed to create a serious company that employs over 120 people during the sales season and is developing new products that are successfully marketed every year.
When and how did you become the market leader in Croatia?
We started with the sale of pyrotechnics back in 1993, first as a distributor for foreign brands and then as independent importers from China. Of course, there was no serious and well-organised sales system before, because not even the legal regulations were defined, but today, our company has the most selling points in Croatia. According to the number of sales outlets, ie chains we supply, and according to the number of our seasonal sales outlets, popularly known as pyroshops, we’ve been a distributor since 2009 in Croatia. We’ve been seriously present in the region since 2006, and in 2012 we took the lead. In Croatia, we supply a total of over 4,000 sales outlets.
If you do, how do you influence the development of the local community?
Like every responsible company, we work very closely with our local community. We’re sponsors and donors for many activities and events and we’re involved in a large number of humanitarian, cultural, sport and social events both in Croatia and in the region. So, within our capabilities, we help local communities realise their projects.
Is the law on sales in Croatia too high? And what is it like in the rest of the EU?
The law has set rules which apply to everyone. The provisions of the law primarily protect consumers and users. In that, there will always be those who are satisfied and those who are less satisfied with the prescribed rules, but we didn’t invent the rules. A major problem is in controlling and enforcing the law due to a short sale period. We have always supported the more transparent [way of doing] business, and as such, a clearer and more concrete law, because only a market of that kind can function properly.
How many sales outlets (pyroshops) do you have in Croatia and beyond?
In Croatia, we have 260 of our own pyroshops and about 100 distributors. In other countries in the region, we have several of our own pyroshops and we serve over 350 sales outlets. But as time passes and given the fact that we’re introducing some modern forms of marketing into our system, the story is expanding rapidly and in three years we expect to expand on the regional market.
What are your specialty stores and your distributors’ stores?
Specialised pyrotechnic shops must obtain approval from the Ministry of Interior to conduct retail sales of pyrotechnic items. The conditions for such an approval include staff training, fire prevention, security protocols, anti-burglary protection and a variety of other conditions that ensure safe storage and the safe sale of entertainment pyrotechnics. Pyrotechnics is fun, but to be able to sell them, we as distributors have to meet a number of legal and safety rules.
How much is your annual income?
Orion as a group earns about 6 million euro in revenue depending on the season and on the market conditions. Of course, as a company, it’s in our interest to grow, and every year we’re investing additional resources into security, the education of our consumers, as well as the innovations that are indispensable if we want to keep up with modern world trends.
How do your sales go outside of the main season?
Out of the main sales season, that is, from January to November, a smaller part of the range is sold. Mostly specialised [items] for purposes such as naval pyrotechnics and rescue pyrotechnics. There are, of course, party pyrotechnics (confetti, cake fountains, sprays etc.), professional pyrotechnics and special effects that are always sought throughout the year, especially for some festivals, concerts and the like. We also produce a great number of fireworks and stage effects during the tourist season, and there are more and more wedding pyrotechnics which are always attractive.
What innovations in pyrotechnics are you introducing?
We’re constantly working on the development and improvement of the safety-technical properties of pyrotechnics so that we can make our customers as safe as possible. We have two recognised patents. A more secure rocket system, a worldwide-recognised patent, followed by a patented security system for firecrackers and innovation called PyroBlock. Pyroblock is the latest technology for box fireworks that we have launched on the market. Now our fireworks are even better and even safer, so that users can enjoy their luxurious effects and our spectacular fireworks.
What are the trends in sales that today’s customers look for the most?
As information and education grows alongside the fans of entertainment pyrotechnics, consumer trends and tastes are changing. Once upon a time, firecrackers made up 80 percent of sales, while today they account for less than 40 percent, and consumers are increasingly using our fireworks, rockets, fountains and Roman candles. Naturally, firecrackers will always be popular, but the trends are changing, and interesting new items are always expected from us as the market leaders.
How are you approaching the younger generation – events, collaboration with YouTubers and influencers?
We use all permitted channels for communication with our consumers. Today, we live in the digital age, so we’ve adapted to this trend which will soon become our strongest communication medium with the youth. Currently, social networking is in fashion, YouTubers and influencers closely monitor what’s happening in this product segment. What is in and what is not in is created today by the media of the younger generation who capture everything on their vlogs and videos. Through these channels, we primarily want to act educationally and affirmatively to give the younger generation better quality information with an emphasis placed on security and regulation. Education through entertainment has always been effective, it is today just as it was before. Some things never change.
What are your business plans for the future?
The list of plans is time-consuming and is solely related to the development and production of safer and more quality products. We’re an entertainment industry and our goal is to have safe entertainment successfully implemented. This is possible only by investing constantly in infrastructure, technology, equipment, and our expert associates. For this reason, we’re able to announce the construction and expansion of the regional distributive centre in Koprivnica, and thus create a new need for workers. The planned value of investment in the distribution center and storage systems amounts to 1.5 million euro, and it will be the future of pyrotechnics in Croatia and in the region. This business policy has provided us with a leading position in the region as consumers have recognised our work and the effort that we invest into our products.
Mišel Jakšić, the mayor of Koprivnica stated that he welcomes every good entrepreneurial idea and investment, and expressed his desire to encourage young people to stay in the city.
“As the Mayor of Koprivnica, I’m proud of the economy of this city that we’re increasingly developing every day. The business zones which are expanding, and the entrepreneurial incubator, where more and more young people are ready to start their own businesses, is our vision and desire to provide a decent life for young people The cooperation with Orion as the leader of the fun-pyrotechnic market is exceptional, and every year Orion sponsors our events as a responsible company in the local community. As Mayor of Koprivnica, I will always support all the important, however big or small entrepreneurial endeavors so that our young people remain here in Koprivnica, and so that employment gets as high as possible,” the mayor concluded.
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