Gone are the times when two small cooperatives were born in Pistoia and Modena, an alliance of shopkeepers against the arrival of supermarkets, let alone. It was 1960 and those two streams became the Conad Tirreno and Nordiconad rivers which three years ago joined together to create Conad Nord Ovest, a giant of large-scale distribution that can count on 369 partners, 18 thousand employees, 600 stores and has closed the 2020 budget approved by the shareholders a few days ago with a turnover of 4.5 billion euros, a net profit of 68 million and a +7.4 percent in sales. And this in the year of the pandemic. But the link with the past has not stopped. Pistoia and Modena are still the two headquarters of the group. And there is a man who always finds himself, from the beginning, behind this long process of aggregation of hundreds of partners, a more unique than rare case of longevity among managers: Ugo Baldi, 74, is the CEO of Conad Nord Ovest, but he was also, as he remembers with legitimate pride, “employee number 3” of that first Pistoian coop. At the Pistoia headquarters, “Mr. Conad” takes stock of the group’s prospects with the help of Paolo Sardi, responsible for strategic planning, starting from the reasons that led to the plus sign in this difficult year. “Multichannel companies like ours defended themselves better – says Baldi – very large stores fared worse, big ones like this, medium and small ones increased sales”.
The pandemic has changed large retailers?
«He accentuated the changes already underway. E-commerce has had a further boost and we will develop it. The “order and collect” service is already available in many of our supermarkets, we will extend it to all territories with home deliveries and above all with the use of lockers ».
We can translate with “security lockers”?
“Yup. Because home deliveries will not always be free, while lockers will become an opportunity to be extended even outside the point of sale: we will be able to place them in railway or metro stations, in the halls of hospitals or factories ».
The expense goes to meet the customer.
“Exact. The customer does his shopping on the internet, we prepare it for him and leave it in a place as close as possible to where he is or can go ».
The supermarkets will also change?
«I believe that the spaces of 8,000-10,000 square meters will no longer exist. Malls have had more difficulties, while Commercial Parks, where the structures are separated, have more perspective simply because they have less cost. We will stop at 4,500-5,000 square meters of our “Conad Space” ».
Discounters did well during the pandemic.
«For us it is a challenge: our ambition is to respond with low prices and quality. The principle we will follow will be: lower prices every day and fewer special offers. But the consumer also asks for local products. We were the first to focus on localism, involving local producers. Localism ties in with our attention to communities. I would like to remind you that in 2020 we gave 10 million euros in solidarity initiatives. We donated the equivalent of 160,000 meals to Caritas, which reached over 10,500 families. A widespread presence ».
Sustainability is the new watchword.
«For us it also means doing business in a different way. We will no longer follow professional sport, for example. We are sponsors of Basket Pistoia, but from next year we will ask him to remove our name from the shirts. We will not remove the contribution but we will ask that it be destined for youth teams under 16-17 years old. Our help will go to youth sports, to schools, to non-profit organizations, to churches to be reopened. We have made agreements with Caritas and Last minute markets that come to collect the products close to the deadline. And also with Massimo Bottura’s Refectory for the supply of products to his canteens in Bologna and Modena ».
The upcoming openings?
«In Cecina we will open a large commercial park with superstores by September. Here there will also be bistros, the petstore and a petrol station which will anticipate the opening at the end of July. First it will be in Capoliveri where a 300 m2 store will open in July, while a 500 m2 store will open in Rio Marina in November. Finally there is Prato where at the end of the year we will inaugurate a supermarket in the center, in Piazza San Francesco ».
And in the next two years?
«In 2022 the planned openings are in Castelnuovo Garfagnana, Pisa center, Siena, Massa and Gavorrano. In Siena and Massa there are large supermarkets covering 1,500 square meters, the other three are 7-800. In 2023 we work on Arezzo for a large Conad space of 3,000 square meters, in Follonica and Orbetello (both of 1,500 square meters) and then there is Madonna dell’Acqua on the outskirts of Pisa, a Conad space of 4,500 square meters which is moving ».
And in Emilia?
«This year we will open in Nonantola (600 m2) and Modena, in the Madonnina district (1,200 m2, one transfer). In 2022 we have a large project in Carpi still under definition and other projects in Modena and the province. In Ferrara we are weaker and we want to strengthen our presence in the city in the province. We have a lot of contacts underway ».
You will also invest in logistics?
“Very. We will close the Anzola (Bologna) sorting center and bring everything to Modena where an investment of 50 million is planned for an expansion of the hub over the next two years. In Montopoli we will renovate the 30 meter high tower where only trolleys move up and down in the dark that go to fish pallets with goods. In the new, even more sophisticated solution, the trolleys will be able to pick up the single package directly. To the 55 thousand square meters we will add another 30 thousand for an investment of 18 million “.
You will make hires?
“We can speak of 800-1,000 new jobs in the three-year period”.
In a 2017 interview, she announced that she would leave Conad in 2020. 2020 has already passed.
«In August 2018 with the director of Modena, Alessandro Beretta, we decided on the merger and in 2019 we did it. At that point I could not leave and I postponed the leave. I will leave in June 2022 and I can do it easily, because Conad Nord Ovest is in good hands ». –
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