ECONOMY

Toy retailer Jumbo set to meet 2008 targets

Greece’s largest toy retailer Jumbo expects to meet its 2008 profit growth forecast thanks to strong Christmas sales and an expanded store network at home and abroad, its chief executive said yesterday. A fire that caused a month-long shutdown of an Athens store and the revaluation of the Chinese yuan made conditions difficult for the retailer in its first quarter, July to September. Jumbo, which also sells stationery and baby apparel, is targeting earnings growth of up to 15 percent in fiscal 2008. «We don’t expect any surprises (in profit growth),» Jumbo CEO Apostolos Vakakis told Reuters in an interview, adding that sales for the six months ending in December 2007 rose 17.5 percent. Jumbo aims to maintain its share of the Greek market above 38 percent and plans to achieve that with 150 million euros of investments in the next three years. In December Jumbo launched two new stores in Athens and Sofia in Bulgaria, bringing its total number of outlets to 41. Plans are moving ahead for the launch of three more stores in Greece by June 2009 and further penetration of the Bulgarian market by opening up to 12 stores in the neighboring country. Jumbo has put on hold further expansion into other Balkan markets until it assesses the performance of its Bulgarian operations. «Romania will be delayed until we have consolidated in Bulgaria,» Vakakis said, without giving any further details. The toy retailer, which imports over 80 percent of goods from Asia, said strike action launched by dockworkers at Greece’s two largest commercial ports is a «worry» but the company is prepared. «For the time being, the impact on Jumbo is minimal. We have anticipated this and planned accordingly,» said Vakakis. Workers in the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, have refused to work overtime and repeatedly walked off the job since the start of the year to protest government plans to privatize the ports. The strikes have prevented a large backlog of containers from being unloaded and the ports are not expected to return to normal operations for several weeks. Jumbo’s shares have lost 19 percent since the start of this year, underperforming the market which has lost 11 percent in the period, hit by a broader market sell-off and selling by foreign funds, analysts said. Its shares trade about 17 times estimated 2008 earnings.