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"Omnichannel will be the winner"

Plaček Group, Dušan  Plaček

I just bring the ideas and vision, says Dušan Plaček.

Dušan Plaček, founder, owner and CEO of the Plaček Group, talks in an exclusive interview with PET worldwide about his concept, his targets and the future development of the international pet market.

Mr  Plaček, congratulations on the opening of your 250th store! What do you consider to be the main reasons for your business success?

Thank you very much. For sure, the main reason is the people around me. I am lucky to meet great people, I am calling them "my dream team". They manage all the jobs, innovations and results, I just bring the ideas and vision. Without them I would be nothing.

It is remarkable that your company has grown extremely strongly even during the coronavirus crisis, while most pet store chains have tended to exercise restraint. Why is that?

At the beginning of coronavirus crisis there was a lot of panic around us. All our competitors in the pet business and also other retailers immediately stopped expansion. At the time there was a lack of actual information to clearly understand what was really happening and first of all how dangerous it was. But in the end, we believed in our concept and made a brave decision to follow on with the expansion and we put the Super Zoo concept to its biggest test. Now we are happy with our decision, even if it was a big risk for us.  

In your opinion, what consequences will the coronavirus pandemic have for the international pet supplies sector?

After the coronavirus pandemic there will be a whole new world with winners and losers. What I mean are whole business sectors. Pet suppliers will be among the winners. I trust that in the end, the coronavirus will stimulate the global pet business in a positive way. Unfortunately, the reason will not be the healthy state of the economy. I believe that unemployment will be higher and probably our customers will earn less, that they will have more money for our pet business because they will stay at home more and at the same time they will save money on vacations, flights, travelling or just eating in restaurants or drinking in pubs. An important fact is also that we have sold a lot of small animals and tropical fish during the pandemic, which is another new market for us in the future.

In recent years in particular, the expansion of your retail operations has gathered pace signi­ficantly. What are your targets for the next few years?

500 stores (smiles)

Do you intend to expand to other countries? Which countries might be un

We already have a large portfolio of countries. In the Czech Republic, Poland and in Romania we have a huge opportunity to expand. Therefore, we don't need to expand to other countries at the moment. We have the possibility of entering three other countries, but for me the question is always who will be our partner, who will be the person sharing our enthusiasm and who will be part of our team.

You operate with different brands in different countries, thus under the Kakadu brand in Poland, under Dino Zoo in Russia and Latvia and under the Super Zoo brand in other markets. How do the underlying concepts differ in the respective countries?

Very good question. This topic is being discussed in our group at the moment.  It is hard to develop more concepts at once. Therefore we want to use the best concept in our group, which is Super Zoo 4th generation, for other countries like Poland, Latvia and Russia also. Dino Zoo in Latvia and Kakadu in Poland are very strong brands which we will most probably leave there but we will rebrand the logo and the concept of the store will be the same as in Super Zoo. This is the best solution for us at the moment but not yet decided.

In one country, namely Poland, you are in competition with the Fressnapf Group. How have you positioned yourself here?

Poland has the least consolidated market in the EU compared with big national markets. Fressnapf and Kakadu are the two best concepts in the Polish pet market and the rest are not so strong. Fressnapf is a competitor for us but the Polish pet market is big enough for a minimum of three big players anyway, and so the competition is not so big between us. Our concept is different from the Fressnapf concept. We want to have live animals in all our stores with more emotional appeal. For both of us, the biggest competitor in the Polish market is the pure online business. The reason for the strong online pet business is that Poland lacks many good-quality pet stores compared with other European countries.

In many European countries, online retail has grown more strongly than the stationary pet supplies trade during the coronavirus crisis. Is that your experience also?

I don't think that this is so clear, at least in our countries. According to the online shopping results from our sources but also from other retailers' sources, at the beginning of the pandemic there was a huge amount of orders online but this returned to normal after a while for more online players. We have also noticed that because many other retail stores have been closed during the pandemic, but not pet stores, many people have started to visit pet shops. Some of our stores in weaker locations have had significantly more visitors than usual and this traffic has continued. Customers have seen that our stores are spacious and therefore also safe. Regarding annual growth of Super Zoo CZ, we expect around 37-40 per cent, of course including new stores. This was also one reason why the increase in online retailing was not so obvious for us. In my opinion, the online growth of big players is also connected with online market consolidation; put simply, lead­ing retailers are eating up small e-shops. We see that a lot of small online players are not growing any more, some of them are starting to lose or are nearly bankrupt.  

Do you expect this trend to persist in the long term?

I think it will be hard in the future to identify what is clearly online and what is clearly a bricks-and-mortar store. Examples - somebody sends an order through our e-shop superzoo.cz and will pick up the order in our Super Zoo store. Is it only online shopping? If we don't offer the possibility to pick up the order in our shop, we will lose 1/3 of orders.


More examples - a customer in our store didn't find the product he wanted but our shop assistant found it online on a store device and the customer wanted to send it to his home. Again is it just online shopping? We have started to look at the situation not by dividing online and offline shopping, but that we have one customer and that all the procedures are starting to digitise. Yes, there will be more digitisation and online and offline shopping will be more connected.

In view of the growth of online retailing, is it still necessary to invest a lot of money in bricks-and-mortar stores?

I am sure that in long term, now I mean ten years plus, clear online retailing or clear bricks-and-mortar stores will not survive. Big online companies will connect/merge with offline stores or create their own stores and at the same time big retail chains will have a full online solution, and in fact we will have the same players and one retail market again like 20 years back. Thus it is important to invest in stores. That is our strategy. We want to be as close to the customer as it gets. The one who will best manage omnichannel will be the winner.

 

You opened a megastore in Moscow in 2018, followed by a second a year later. What has been your experience with these two outlets to date?

Our two megastores in Moscow provide rich experience for us. We observe the market and customers to see what the possibilities are in the future. We are still forming our team. Unfortunately, the coronavirus has slowed us down. Russia is most challenging for us. We still want to carry on there.

Will you open further stores in Russia?

Yes, we want to open more stores but we will most probably change the format. We will open smaller stores of 300-500 m2 in size. Our assortment will be smaller with more of our own brands. A question mark is the location of stores. In Russia there are not so many retail park locations as compared to the Czech Republic or Slovakia. It is not so easy to find the best location and a good rent at the same time. We believe that we will open new stores in 2021. We are thinking about franchising. Russia could be ideal for it.

|27.10.2020 | 15:39

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PLAČEK GROUP - The team

František Polda

František Polda

Company boss Dušan Plaček cites "the people around me" as the chief reason for his business success. We introduce some of these people below.

Click here