Spar Officially Takes Over Billa in Croatia

Total Croatia News

Spar will have 5,000 employees and 5 billion kuna in annual revenues.

Spar official took over the Billa retail chain in Croatia, which marks its further growth in the Croatian market. CEO of Spar Croatia Helmut Fenzl spoke about the plans of the company, reports Večernji List on April 6, 2017.

Last Saturday, we have formed a new board of directors of Billa, which now includes me and Danijel Vidiš. After the presentation to the headquarters, in the next few days I will tour the branches. My intention is to personally meet with each employee of Billa and welcome them to our company. Then the integration will begin, which will probably last until the end of the year, while the rebranding of Billa’s stores to Spar should be completed by the summer.

Spar will now become the second-largest retailer in Croatia, ahead of Plodine, Lidl and Kaufland?

The process of merger has enabled us a quantum leap. We have become a much stronger and more powerful company, probably the third largest in Croatia and the second largest in Zagreb. We will also improve our business operations. That is much more important than the market share, although the numbers are also impressive.

New Spar will have about 5 billion kuna in annual revenues and almost 5,000 employees. In addition, we will continue to invest in our development. In 2017 and 2018, without investment in Billa, where just the basic rebranding will cost about 12 million euros, we will invest additional 50 million euros annually in new projects. I think that in the next few years we will be the largest investor in retail in Croatia.

Did you keep all the employees of Billa?

In addition to the integration of Billa, we continually employ new staff. Just in the first three months of this year we hired 164 new workers, and we still need 40 more. With the start of the tourist season, we will have to significantly increase the number of workers in our coastal branches in Pula, Rijeka, Poreč, Zadar, Šibenik… This week, we will open two new branches in Selce and at the Cascade Centre in Zagreb, and here we have employed 52 employees. Employees of Billa have retained all their labour rights, and for the first time in a long time they will get an Easter bonus, just like the Spar employees.

Are you planning new acquisitions?

We are looking at the opportunities and we are open for discussions with everyone. But the focus is our own expansion because there are still a lot of regions in which we are not sufficiently present, such as Istria and Dalmatia. In Istria, we only at the beginning of last year opened the first Interspar in Pula. With Billa, we now have a location in Poreč, and we will start building the first Interspar in Rijeka, which will open next year.

How many Croatian suppliers are represented in Spar’s stores?

I do not think there is anyone among major suppliers in Croatia which is not represented in our stores. With the introduction of Spar Premium brand, we have opened the doors to small artisanal and local manufacturers who have quality products and before they were not able to reach the shelves of large retail chains. Sales of these products are growing from year to year, and now all these items will be represented in Billa as well, which will bring an additional boost in turnover.

Are Kaufland and Lidl losing their market position in Croatia after the merger of Billa and Spar?

I do not want to predict how that will affect our competition. We are working hard to grow and are happy to take part of the total turnover. We ourselves had around 6 percent share of the market, and now together we will have about 10 percent.


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