Retail wars multiplying

An explosion in investment and price wars has marked Greek retailing over the last few years, with ever-intensifying competition among the foreign chains in particular. The trend is projected to continue, and not just in the supermarket segment of the market. Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou says the result of the changes has been «thousands of new jobs and stronger competition to the benefit of consumers.» Food chains especially, in order to retain existing market shares, are planning to invest huge sums in new outlets, refurbishing old ones, improving their internal structure and expanding the range of their products, particularly under private labels. Pasteurized milk is a characteristic example. The appearance of private labels seemed unimaginable a few years ago, but now there are at least three. The increasing presence of discount stores, particularly the entry of German chains Lidl and – more recently – Plus, which plans to invest about 600 million euros over the next five years, has been the major booster of competition. Aldi is widely expected to follow. French chain Carrefour recently announced plans to invest 300 million by 2009. Discount supermarkets now number about 550, with a total annual turnover of 800 million euros. In other types of retailing, Zara Hellas plans to set up more than 60 additional outlets, and Elmec Sport a second Factory Outlet near Athens Airport by 2008. Papathanassiou dispels complaints of cut-throat competition by the big chains, saying that the future «belongs mainly to the thousands of small and medium-size enterprises» which the government plans to support with funds from the Fourth Community Support Framework, especially to «encourage them to set up procurement cooperatives in order to be able to buy at lower prices.» Separately, retail sales by volume rose 10.1 percent year-on-year in June, picking up from a 7.0 percent annual pace in May, data by the national Statistics Service showed yesterday. Sales by revenue rose 12.7 percent year-on-year in June compared with a 9.1 percent rise the previous month.

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