What word best characterizes the year 2021?
The field in which we operate, that of impulse and transit retail, has gone through a period of transformation in the last 2 years, and the evolution has been influenced by the medical, social, economic and political context that is constantly changing. Our team has responded well to the challenges and, in addition, our specialists have been involved in key cross-cutting projects at the level of the Lagardère Travel Retail group in areas such as finance, supply chain or IT, projects designed to enhance skills and know-how. and capitalize on the experience and good practices generated at the branch level. It is important to add that, despite the volatile environment, we have continued our development plans, including the expansion of the store network. All this was possible because we have built a solid business in Romania in the last 25 years, with a long-term strategy, designed based on customer needs and with mechanisms for continuous adaptation to external factors. We chose to look at the context as a one-off situation, based on which we quickly reconfigured ourselves and are glad that we continued to serve our customers and adapt to their expectations. There were a few key factors that contributed – the collaboration with our business partners, whom we thank for their support, the diversity of our business directions and our appetite for change and for taking advantage of opportunities. If I were to mention a term that defines our DNA, it is the rapid adaptability to change, as we have shown in the last year.
What were your concerns about the business you run in 2021? (pandemic, economic crisis, commodity crisis, inflation, labor, government crisis, others). What are the results of the company’s / group activity compared to the estimates at the beginning of the year?
Given the specificity of our business, one of our main concerns has been related to health risks in terms of our staff, customers and partners. We have a retail structure spread all over Romania, and a large number of customers cross our threshold every day. With an average of over 2 million monthly network transactions, our priority has been to create a secure environment in Lagardere Travel Retail stores for sales staff and customers. Beyond this aspect, this year too the lack of predictability has affected our business evolution on most lines. We have faced many challenges related to the democratization of the hybrid way of working, the restrictions that have led, implicitly, to low net traffic and, in general, to a constantly changing economic and social environment. Under these conditions, it is not surprising that we are below the level expected for 2021, when our initial forecast was built on the assumption of traffic return, but we will end the year on the rise.
What were your reasons for satisfaction or optimism in 2021?
Overall, we are pleased to be able to remain relevant to our customers through the mix of products and concepts made available to them, and we have continued our development in light of the new market reality. The situation determined us to act creatively, we took active measures to optimize financial indicators, so we managed to develop efficiently and sustainably and we even opened new stores at the pace we were used to before the crisis. We have also successfully tested concepts and territories that we have not explored before. Another significant reason for pride is that our most well-known brand locally, INMEDIO, exceeds the indicators of 2019, a stable year. We are pleased to see a trend towards professionalization of retail in travel media – as evidenced by the tenders we have participated in at major regional airports and which show a growing concern of the authorities for the quality of retail operations and passenger services. We are also waiting for a series of projects of strategic interest to our Group and insistently requested by travelers from the main airport in our country – I am referring here to the tender for the operation of commercial spaces at Otopeni Airport, which should take place in the near future. We see this project as an important milestone for updating the quality of services offered to passengers who cross the threshold of the largest gateway to and from Romania and as a real catalyst for the transformation of trade in travel and transit areas. Equally, this project is an opportunity for the Lagardere Travel Retail Group to reaffirm its interest in an important market in which we have already had a consistent presence for 25 years.
How do you characterize the Romanian private business environment in 2021 in terms of resilience and dynamics? Argue.
From the various discussions with private interlocutors, it seems that in stressful situations, culture pushes us to overwork. This crisis has often led to an acceleration of projects, innovations and experimentation, which can, in the long run, lay the groundwork for a leap forward. As for the level of resilience, it largely depends on the industry and the size of the company. There were industries or fields that prospered during this period, others are still deeply affected. Also, the crisis we are going through tests, for each company, the stability of the business model. Certainly, smaller companies have suffered more, while large companies have access to security mechanisms and resources to help them absorb the shock of the crisis more easily.
What are the good decisions the government has made to encourage and support the Romanian business environment in 2021? What are some things he had to do but didn’t do?
I appreciated the authorities’ attempts to establish mechanisms and schemes to support the business environment, as well as the effort to maintain a balance, a middle ground between restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the virus and their impact on the economy. However, the year 2021 was fundamentally marked by a lack of predictability in terms of health, political environment, legislative and fiscal framework.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges in the world in 2022?
In addition to long-standing phenomena such as the climate crisis and migration, there are challenges that will have a profound effect on global economies – the energy crisis and the labor crisis, which has returned in a new wave as a result of the pandemic. Great Resignation, and this crisis caused by the shortage of specialists will affect all continents more and more. To these external challenges is added the need to make the operating model of companies more flexible, at the level of structure and processes, in order to respond as well as possible to a complex environment, with many variables and constantly changing.