The retail chain Hortifruti e Natural da Terra is entering a new phase. After being bought by Americanas, for R$ 2.1 billion, the company is preparing to accelerate the physical expansion and digital sales, which had already been put into practice in recent years by the company’s president, Thiago Picolo, who took over the business in 2019.
The order is not to stand still until there is the approval of the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (Cade) for the transaction. For this reason, according to Picolo, who should remain in charge of the company even with the control of Americanas, all plans are still in place. The expansion of physical stores, for example, is accelerated compared to other years. Whereas previously the average was ten units per year, Natural da Terra intends to open 20 spaces in 2021.
To intensify this expansion, the company also plans to increase the number of “Light” units, which are smaller stores of up to 200 m², to function as the old neighborhood greengrocers. In them, there are fewer products, but many of them have added value, such as fruit salads and ready-made juices. For comparison purposes, a conventional store, either Hortifruti or Natural da Terra, has a space of 1.2 thousand m².
The expansion, at least for now, will be divided into 60% of conventional stores and 40% of the Leve model. This difference occurs because the company is planning to enter other regions in the coming years, such as the interior of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, and the larger markets work as suppliers for the “grocery stores”.
The Leve model also helps in the expansion of the digital service, as it becomes a kind of distribution center for internet sales. And this thing caught the attention of Americanas. Today, 16% of Natural da Terra’s sales are made through e-commerce.
During the pandemic, according to Picolo, this slice reached 21%. “But my dream is for all customers to be multichannel, that they buy both online and in physical stores,” he says.
The Executive says this because customers who buy both online and in stores are more recurrent and spend much more per month. On average, the customer who only buys in supermarkets goes there 34 times a year and spends R$350 per month, while those who also adopt digital channels make 67 annual purchases and leave R$1,000 monthly on the network. “This recurrence is exactly what large retailers want for their applications,” says Alberto Serrentino, partner at Varese Retail, a retail consultancy.
Even without being able to put into practice possible synergies with Americanas, Picolo sees the possibility of the company selling fresh products in part of the 2,150 stores of the retailer controlled by the 3G Capital fund, led by billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann.
The idea is to invest in higher value-added products that can be consumed locally, such as those in smaller stores. These options would be the company’s own brand, which already sells from perishable products to eggs, purchased directly from producers.
In addition, Picolo does not confirm whether the company will sell its products only in apps linked to the group. Today, in addition to Americanas Mercado and Supermercado Now, both controlled by the retailer, Natural da Terra also sells through Rappi and iFood.
But what is practically certain, according to him, is that nothing changes in the company’s management structure. “Even after the transaction is completed, the idea is that brands and operations retain their individuality. It is a fundamental concept of the ecosystem”, he says. The information is from the newspaper The State of São Paulo.
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