Discount Retail Chain MERE (owned by the Russian Schneider family) is one of the Russian companies operating in Serbia, for a little over a year. They arrived on the Serbian market at the end of 2020, and in a very short time they managed to attract a large number of customers.
This retail chain operates under the Svetofor brand and is owned by the Torgservis Group, which, before the war, operated in more than 2,000 locations in 25 countries and which has existed since 2009. However, the current situation has made business difficult for this Russian company as well, so, at the very beginning of this situation, as the media report, they had to close their store in Great Britain. According to the website RetailDetail.eu, Great Britain is not an isolated case, and in Spain the company had to close its eight stores, while in Germany, according to the allegations, the stores of the Russian retail chain were not closed.
The advantages of this retail chain are that, as stated on their website, the prices are 20 to 30 percent lower than the market ones. "This can be achieved by reducing packaging costs, we do not need colorful and attractive packaging. In the case of well-known brands that have a reputation, that difference should be up to 50 percent, "the website states.
We talked with the director of development for Serbia, BiH, Macedonia, Croatia of the retail chain about the situation in Ukraine and how it complicates the business of the Russian company in Serbia and the world, but also about the import of goods and how the citizens of Serbia accepted this trade chain.
Russian retail chain Russian trade chain Mere, Development Director Mladen Milojica How has the situation in Ukraine affected your business in Serbia?
The situation in Ukraine does not bring good to anyone, not even to us. However, at the moment, it has not significantly affected our business. First of all, because we were founded as a company that operates in accordance with Serbian legislation, in which our people are mostly employed, only the owners of the company are people from Russia.
Given that your range mainly includes imported products, do you have any challenges when it comes to providing products for stores and how is the process being done now?
Our range is based on the best prices. Currently, most of the assortment is Serbian production, goods from Russia are just a supplement. As for the import itself for this period since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, we have not had any difficulties, we believe that only the price of certain goods from Russia can change, which means that for some period a particular item may not be.
How will this situation affect the business of the Russian trade chain Mere in Serbia, but also in the rest of the world, in the future?
Unfortunately, the situation in Ukraine is not, so to speak, "their" story. That is something that concerns all of us. As far as the company's business is concerned, when we talk about the Serbian market, if everything remains as it is now, we will not have major problems, difficulties or obstacles to work. Which does not apply to the rest of the world, even our immediate region. For now, new strategies are being considered, but the situation is also being monitored. Time will tell what to do.
To what extent are the expectations of the Mere chain on the Serbian market fulfilled by coming to Serbia?
The MERE discount retail chain operates in Russia, as well as throughout Europe and the world. By coming to Serbia, they opened the door to a new format of markets in Serbia, by opening more than 25 markets in a year, we have very much met the original expectations in the Balkans, specifically in Serbia.
How does the Mere retail chain differ from other chains in Serbia? Our focus is price, so we can freely say that this is what sets us apart. Namely, at the expense of the number of products, we strive to get the cheapest ones here. All this entails the way of exposure, selection of suppliers, number of employees, etc. Russian retail chain Russian retail chain Mere, supermarket
How do you work when it comes to suppliers? What standards apply to your suppliers, in general?
Our task is difficult. Find the cheapest, best possible quality. This is made possible by our fixed significantly lower margins than others and direct cooperation with manufacturers and developing companies.
I assume that your assortment includes exclusively imported goods. Do you have a plan to include home-made items in your range?
The assumption that has accompanied us since our appearance on the Serbian market is that we sell exclusively, or mostly imported goods, and quite the opposite. Most of our range is goods of domestic, Serbian production, both well-known brands and small, still unknown brands and companies. Unfortunately, the crown really made import more difficult, and Serbian suppliers are not all ready for the quantities that MERE can sell, so we are not able to expand the range to the extent that we would like it to flow. However, we also have goods from Russia, Poland, Belarus, Greece, Estonia, etc. The procurement sector is working hard, so we expect everything new from them. The corona virus pandemic has caused major disruptions in both the domestic and global markets. Although research and analysis show that retail was at one point almost the only industry to record growth, retailers also faced a number of challenges.
What was your biggest problem and how did you overcome it?
There is no job that can be done without people. Or if there are, there are few. In a discount market that pays attention to the costs due to the price of the products we offer to the customer, it is difficult and challenging when our employees become infected. However, our employees are organized as a team, so we manage and jump on each other.
Considering that the Mere trade chain is a Russian chain, how is it maintained on the Serbian market that Serbia has preferential treatment with Russia, when it comes to trade?
Interest and benefit are mutual in every sense. There is no Serbian supplier who would not like to export his goods to Russia, and when there are no bureaucratic obstacles, when the state supports and facilitates it, we believe that we are also an interesting market for Russian producers. Apart from believing that we are proving it by buying Russian products in our markets.
What are your plans for the future? What are the prospects for expansion in the next 10 years?
The Balkans came after ten years of existence and hard work of discount markets in the former Soviet Union. We cannot say that we are not happy that we are going and developing in step with the markets that have been operating in Russia, Belarus and other countries for years. We are present on all continents except Australia, so wherever there are people willing to buy the cheapest for us, there are no borders.