Q: In a brief statement, can you tell us what is really essential for business growth in Romania, in 2016 and beyond, both for HL Display and for your clients?
Alexandru Chiru: Being in 2016 does not bring, necessarily, new issues that are the base of growing HL business or any other business in Romania. So, essential is to increase sales, because if the need is growing, then also the sales should grow. All of our clients want to invest in innovation, in new solutions that will assure a big ROI and will increase sales.
Of course, let’s not forget, decrease of tax would be an essential factor as well.
Q: What is the most innovative trend for in-store communication and merchandising in 2016? Are Romanian consumers ready for innovation in this sector? Please detail.
Alexandru Chiru: Well, from our point of view, the Romanian consumers are always waiting and have a huge desire for innovation, for something new to happen, for new experiences, so based on this we can say that one of the most innovative trend in the retail sector would be to create and give more at the shelf edge. And here we are talking about making it easy for the consumer to find his way in the store, to get directions to the category he seeks and then to find all the information about the product he wants. It may not seem a new trend, but it’s still the actual trend.
Another innovative trend will be technologization of the shopping experience; having digital screens on which to choose what they can buy or where can they find the products, interactive merchandising displays.
Usually when we think about innovation, we think about novelty. To respond to this trend, retailers, and actually also the brand producers, used rebranding.
When talking about innovation in merchandising, we refer to optimizing the store, the shopper experiences, the activity itself - and here we create new solutions that cover all these needs.
Q: As Romania is going through a major boost in spending (triggered by a significant decrease in indirect taxes), how are the consumers reacting? Do they act differently compared to the past?
Alexandru Chiru: If we judge by the shopping basket reports, they acted differently at the first beginning of this change; now we can report the same behavior.
In the same time, what is different it’s the focus they put now on quality, for example, they spend more on quality, in comparison to how they did before this change.
Q: How are your clients reacting, taking into consideration such a major boost?
Alexandru Chiru: Indeed, we felt a big growth along with all the changes in the market. In what concerns HL business in Romania, our clients reacted like we expected - their budget grew, thanks to this boost; budgeting more on innovations and solutions for increasing sales and creating a more appropriate environment for the shoppers to buy, they invest more in HL solutions, hence, our partnerships strengthen and are more consolidated.
Q: In your sector, we have seen in the past few years some intense changes and an ever-changing market. Have these transformations ended? What is next?
Alexandru Chiru: Considering the Romanian market, which, like you mentioned, goes through ever-chancing periods, the small shops started to close down, and the big accounts started to grow; more and more.
The producers noticed that they cannot face the big competitors. What’s in it for us? Well, new partners, new business opportunities. Because, in the same time, these international accounts want to save labor cost, want to increase their sales and to have their store the best they can be and offer.
Last but not least, small local producers started to merchandise their products in modern retail, so we can say that this is next- collaboration between TT and MT.
Q: What is most important now for the Romanian consumers in terms of in-store communication and merchandising: the solutions for displaying goods in an attractive way or providing purchasing information (and helping customers transform their shopping experience)? Please give us some examples based on your experience.
Alexandru Chiru:: From the beginning of the shopping “era”, shoppers wanted to spend as little time in stores; they want to purchase what they need fast and easy, so that they can have time for other activities that matters for their wellbeing.
They can do this only by having the right shopper experience and solutions when they enter a store.
From our experience we can say that what matters most is, like you also mentioned, in-store communication, information about the products and prices, having neat displays, having all that the consumer needs, at his reach.
Moreover, a good category management definitely is something to focus on, because it creates differentiation and it guides the consumer.
One of the projects that we worked on was with one of the top beverages producer, and it consisted in redesigning the category management based on new messages at the shelf edge, using merchandising solutions to better display the products, highlighting offer and brand with illumination – so all these solutions in one major project.
Q: Is there a new way of shopping in Romania? What do Romanian consumers want from their shopping experience?
Alexandru Chiru: Consumers want to spend less time in the store, they focus now on BIO products, natural products, that are produced locally. Moreover, they want to have all information about the product.
Q: What is the role of technology in the new shopping experience which HL Display helps implement?
Alexandru Chiru: For HL Display, using new tech products as solutions for merchandising, or as part of our merchandising solutions, was always a top priority.
Simply put, using technology in almost everything we do we keep up with trends and, most important, with what our clients and then the consumers, want and need.
Creating desirable shopping experiences for the consumer is one of the main concerns our clients have; as partners, we contribute with innovation and in-store implementations which include illumination, brand awareness, neat displays, product information for the shopper, easy access to products; all in all, we focus, as well, on creating shopping experiences and bring change for the better, not only for novelty.
Q: From an executive point of view, taking into consideration ‘the new business equation’, what are the most important variables for your business sector in Romania?
Alexandru Chiru: This is interesting, of course, but we cannot talk about ‘variables’. It’s not eloquent, actually. The approach should be more about opportunities, about growth, yes, again growth, it’s about our partners, about innovation.
We are willing to put on the table a huge range of opportunities, and these are all for the advantage of our partners. We develop in store tests, plan projects in which we believe, we analyze together with them the ROI and how this will affect the business development.
This is the new equation; or, at least, this should be the new business equation. It’s all about bridging the needs with innovations. And then the magic starts. So, in our sector we can always talk about opportunities.