ECONOMY

Growth strategy for lean times

At a time when its competitors are shutting their stores on Stournari St, where most computer stores are concentrated, Plaisio computers is expanding its own store to over 1,000 square meters. A slowdown in the information technology (IT) market has created big problems for almost all computer chain stores, which were forced to close down branches and scale back investment plans and sales forecasts. Not Plaisio, according to President Giorgos Gerardos. According to him, 2001 profit will rise to 1.7 billion drachmas (4.99 million euros) on sales of 35 billion drachmas (102.71 million euros). For 2002, the company forecasts a profit of 1.9 billion drachmas (5.58 million euros) on sales of 42 billion drachmas (123.26 million euros). Gerardos is somewhat skeptical about whether a «crisis» is affecting the IT sector. «The problem with Greek IT retailers is that they all followed the same growth model, of small, dispersed outlets selling a small number of accessories. There is scope for growth if the (retailers) satisfy other consumer needs, such as technical support for both hardware and software,» he says. The fact that several of Plaisio’s competitors specialize more in selling mobile telephony accessories has been decisive in shaping this strategy of small outlets found in almost every neighborhood. This helped spur the explosive growth of mobile telephony, which, after only eight years of operation, has reached almost seven out of 10 Greeks. «The model we have developed consists of selling many products at a few main outlets. Even mobile telephony retailers will have to develop important sales points with highly specialized staff, something which will lead them (closer to) our model,» says Plaisio’s chief. Plaisio has been following the same business strategy since it opened 32 years ago. This consists of going after increased market share, even in lean times. «We spend a lot on investment, since our debt level is very low. Our strength is not long-term planning, since conditions easily change in our sector, but our adaptability to the super-fast changes in modern technology. We see growth possibilities in every such change, says Gerardos. About 35 percent of Plaisio’s sales are made by orders through product catalogs and through the Internet. The IT retailer has also opened what it calls a «technology learning and leisure center» in Thessaloniki.