RIO – The need to reduce food spending and travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic led legal advisor Bruna Silva, 31, to attend a wholesale market – the so-called Atacarejo – in Tijuca, North Zone of Rio, to supply the pantry in the last year. The idea was to go out less and buy more, she explains, who estimates saving close to 20% per month:
– Prices have increased a lot, and these markets have become an option. I buy products that I can keep longer. The price is lower. And even items that you would buy at traditional retailers are sometimes more affordable.
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Like Bruna, six out of ten households in the country already use Atacarejo when shopping, according to data from Nielsen consultancy. The cash and carry chains snapped up 40% of sales in 2020 in the country’s large retail trade, which also includes super and hypermarkets. The jump came with successive crises since the recession that started in 2014, when that slice was 27.8%.
Today, the end consumer disputes space head-to-head with small traders, traditionally the majority of the Atacarejo public.
The crisis brought about by the pandemic helps to accelerate the expansion of the major chains in the segment, such as Atacadão, from Carrefour, and Assaí, listed on the stock exchange since the beginning of March, after a spin-off with Grupo Pão de Açúcar.
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– Atacarejo’s proposal is home to moments of crisis, reduced income and high inflation. In recent years, Brazil has faced successive crises, with rising unemployment. People look for the sales channel with lower prices – explains Eduardo Yamashita, Director of Operations for the consulting firm Gouvêa Ecosystem.
Focus on the basics
In the year to March 14, sales in physical retail – totaling super and hypermarkets, Atacarejo and pharmacies – rose 14.5% over the same period in 2020. The advance of Atacarejo, alone, however, was 22.8% .
In order to have a reduced cost, the chains operate with large stores, with lower expenditure on logistics, taking advantage of the sales space also as stock, with few services and fewer employees.
– That is why they can offer better prices, also selling larger quantities. Products such as disposable diapers, for example, cost 15% less than in pharmacies. The other retail channels have to stand out for services and convenience. You can’t fight the price – highlights Bruno Achkar, retail service coordinator at Nielsen.
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The quest to reduce spending also had an effect on the shopping basket, says Achkar. The consumer today favors basic items and practicality. In food products, there was an increase in sales of meatballs (46.1%), rice (34.8%), oils and olive oils (39.6%) and frozen potatoes (35.2%).
They left cereal bars (-19.1%), ice cream (-7.2%) and baby food (-17.2%). Among the proteins, the focus is on those with the lowest price, although all of them registered an increase in consumption. Pork cuts, for example, rose 35.7%, while cattle, which are more expensive, 16.4%.
Virgínia Souza, a 24-year-old student from Rio de Janeiro, says that, with high inflation, she and her family started to buy from wholesalers, prioritizing products with better prices:
– There is the advantage of having discounts for larger purchases, which is good, since the prices are quite high. We must continue to use these markets even with the end of the pandemic. Only when you are looking for something very specific or sophisticated, you will not find it.
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The large chains, however, have been making adjustments to better serve the end consumer.
– Today, the movement is divided equally between traders and final consumers. We have already mix of products. We also improved lighting, air conditioning, installed cafes in stores. But it is necessary to focus on the model and assertiveness – comments Moacir Sbardelotto, regional director of Operations at Assaí.
Foot on the gas
With 184 stores, the chain, which ended 2020 with a profit of R $ 1 billion, 25% more than a year earlier, is preparing to open 78 stores by the end of 2023, when it will reach all states in the country.
– We researched a lot the ideal location for new stores, which accelerates the maturation of the unit and brings a faster return. The goal is organic growth, initially without acquisitions. But this is not plastered – says Sbardelotto.
For this year, Assaí is preparing a B2B platform, to sell directly to companies, and a e-commerce with partners.
Yamashita, from Gouvêa Ecosystem, points out that successful wholesale groups will step on the accelerator:
– Atacarejo stores ask for less investment to be opened compared to a hypermarket, but have twice or more revenue. These mature networks will move forward. Consolidations will also come, but only if the asset to be acquired is healthy.
Acquisitions have been an expansion engine for Carrefour, owner of Atacadão and leader in all retail in the country.
– This year, we will continue with the expansion plan, with the planned opening of 20 stores, in addition to the e-commerce. We will also have the completion of the integration of the 30 Makro stores acquired in 2020 – says Marco Oliveira, Vice President of Atacadão.
Last month, Carrefour bought BIG (formerly Walmart) for R $ 7.5 billion, noting that the operation, which still needs to be approved by the regulator, will expand the company’s presence in the Northeast and South. which will convert Maxi stores into Atacadão. In 2020, Atacadão’s net sales rose 23.1% compared to 2019.
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