The covid-19 pandemic has shaken the distribution sector and the Catalan chain Ametller Origen has been no exception. The confinements have forced the company, so far focused on the sale of local food, to expand the range of products to include personal and household hygiene. In addition, the confinement multiplied online sales at the height of the state of alarm and, although they have normalized, they still present much higher figures than before the outbreak of the epidemic.
In fact, the expansion of the range of products and the increase in Internet turnover have gone hand in hand, according to the co-owner and CEO of the company, Josep Ametller. The covid-19 has brought “a new paradigm” in terms of the role of the web, which has gained a lot of prominence: “We managed to multiply online sales by ten,” says Ametller, although with the escalation the data it was reduced to five times more. Currently, the Internet contributes 4% of the group’s turnover, more than triple that of 1.2% before covid-19. At times of maximum closure in the country exceeded 10%.
The company does not expect this trend to go down, the other way around. “The coronavirus has made us three years ahead” of the evolution of online sales initially planned by the company, which closed 2019 with revenues of 200 million euros.
In this sense, the company has continued to expand the scope of home delivery and this week has begun to offer the service in several municipalities on the Costa Brava, from Blanes to Palamós. Orders are served from the company’s logistics platform in Barcelona, which is also used to supply deliveries from Barcelonès, Baix Llobregat and some municipalities in the Maresme and Garraf. In addition, the chain offers home deliveries on the strip between Cunit and Hospitalet de l’Infant, although in this case they leave Tarragona.
“Fruit and vegetables are 45% of our sales,” says Ametller, who explains that during the state of alarm many customers asked the company to buy other products to avoid having to do orders in different chains. The management of the company decided to go ahead with the expansion of the product catalog beyond food and include “some more category”, a remarkable step for a company that, in addition to supermarkets, is a producer of a significant proportion of its fruit and vegetables.
The CEO says that the cleaning products offered by the company have been chosen following the “philosophy” of the chain, based on “proximity”. “We prioritize local suppliers, but in some cases it has not been possible,” says Ametller. On the possibility of further expanding the supply outside of food, we do not want to risk: “First we will read calmly how they have behaved” sales.
Changes in stores
Another of the changes introduced by covid-19 is the more “irregular” distribution of sales in the network of 105 stores, says Ametller. “The general turnover is going as we had planned,” he says, although it has been distributed differently, with the first months of confinement marked by “hoarding” -more sales-, later balanced. However, as a result of online growth, “the flow of visitors is lower” in stores, but customer spending has increased.
In addition, the premises with the most sales to customers “outside the area” (people who do not live in the neighborhood) have lost users, especially in Barcelona, but has increased in other stores where they depended on more sporadic customers, such as in places with second residences.