VIA VAREJO – The transformation that worked out

The company started 2020 with many plans, and results went beyond expectations. In last quarter, it had a net profit of BRL 65 million, reversing the loss of BRL 162 million in the same period of 2019. All of this because of the work of a fine-tuned team. The executive board includes Roberto Fulcherberguer, CEO; Abel Ornelas, COO; Orivaldo Padilha, CFO; Sérgio Leme, CAO; and Helisson Lemos, CDO. In their first year of management, they made Via Varejo’s e-commerce representativeness grow from 34% to 80%. The number of users rose from 8 million to 15.5 million in their apps, and the staff of the technology team was expanded from 900 to 1,400 professionals. The new projects and retail challenges are described in this exclusive interview of Roberto and Abel for Eletrolar News magazine. The goal and secret of success are summed up in one sentence: by doing a real retailing.

By Leda Cavalcanti

How does the company evaluate its development in recent years?

Roberto Fulcherberguer – The new executive board took over the company in June 2019. At that time, we were back to being an independent corporation, focused exclusively on our brands. When we came, we were aware of the need to make the biggest turnaround ever seen in Brazilian retail. We needed, very quickly, to return to retail; and to do this with excellence and prepare our company to go beyond retail. We knew that we had a huge strength, and a responsibility the size of that strength: an 85 million customers’ base. With each of these 85 million consumers as a goal and as a reason for existing, we started our journey. A transformation that seeks to serve consumers where they want and how they want, in the store, over their cell phones or via apps. It is a journey of digitization, of innovation.

Now, a year later, we can say that we are a digital company, totally focused on the customer. In last quarter, we recorded a net profit of 65 million, reversing a loss of BRL 162 million in the same period of 2019. In addition, over this first year, we increased e-commerce representation from 34% to 80%; we grew from 8 million to 15.5 million users in our apps; and the technology team increased from 900 to 1,400 people.

Today, Via Varejo is present in more than 400 Brazilian cities, including 20 states and the Federal District; with around 1 thousand physical stores; 26 distribution centers and warehouses – an area equivalent to 138 soccer fields; and approximately 41 thousand employees in the whole country.  Ponto Frio has 216 stores in Southeast, South and Midwest regions Casas Bahia has 857 stores in 20 states and in the Federal District.

Roberto Fulcherberguer, CEO (esq.) / Abel Ornelas, COO.

“ “We have strongholds that are difficult to reach.”

Roberto Fulcherberguer, CEO


“We care for the most beloved brand of Brazilian retail, Casas Bahia.” Abel Ornelas, COO

How is it like to manage such a large business in different regions and cultures of the Country?

Abel Ornelas“We care for the most beloved brand of Brazilian retail, Casas Bahia.” It is the brand that invented credit as we know it today, and that has one of the most inclusive and welcoming stories of Brazilian retail. Recently, we changed Casas Bahia’s positioning to reflect the company’s movement and translate all this inclusion and welcoming. And it was perfect. “Our home is Brazil” tells our audiences exactly what we are. It is the brand that welcomes everyone in a warm and friendly way. It is the brand that gives credit to the Brazilian customer, and that will continue to create solutions so that everyone is able to consume.

With both brands – Casas Bahia and Pontofrio, we work to meet all needs of our consumers in the regions where we operate, in order to maintain confidence in our brands and increase our quality standards. Today, our largest market is in the Southeast Region. Meanwhile, we are expanding our business and announcing the opening of new units and distribution centers in North and Midwest regions of the country. In addition to promoting our services, this movement is already generating new job opportunities in the states that make up these regions.

Which actions and strategies are the differentials of Via Varejo?

 RF – “We have strongholds that are hard to reach.” In addition to a massive customer base, we have the largest logistics network in Brazil. We also have stores that are excellently located and perfectly sized to function as delivery hubs. And, of course, we differentiate ourselves from the competition in customer service and customer care. Today, selling is a long experience, which begins at the moment when customer accesses us, or when we access the customer, up until delivery. The objective is to value this experience at every point of the journey. In-store or on website, upon delivery, offering services and payment facilities. As an omnichannel company, we concentrate solutions and tools that promote quality in all stages of acquisition. Customers can buy via website and app, choose not to pay for shipping and pick up at the store, or choose our delivery, and be able to count on fast and competitive service, for example.

In our journey of transformation, we have shown that we are a highly adaptable company. With the pandemic, we have become more digital, we have created training and tools so that everyone could be even closer even with physical distance. We have innovated with the home office, we have hired many people on an officeless basis, we had to be creative. And the teams have responded to these innovations with great commitment.

From now on, how will the retail trajectory be? Which area will receive the greatest resources?

RF – Retail will be increasingly digital. Consumers are becoming more and more familiar with the online, and the scenario of social distancing caused by the pandemic has accelerated this process even for the more traditional individuals.

I could say that what has changed is technology. Not technology as something separate and unattainable within companies. But technology as part of the business, as a facilitator of all processes for customers and employees. Today, our entire business is technology, and all the technology is integrated into our business. It is only important if it makes life easier for our customers, and if makes it possible for us to dedicate more time to make our dreams come true. The big change in retail is the transfer of power to consumers. They decide the game. They buy as they like, relate whenever they feel like, pay the way they want. We must know this customer more and more, and use technology, which provides this knowledge, to serve them in a closer, more humane way. Technology will enable us to treat our 85 million customers like Samuel Klein, our founder, treated his customers at our number one store in São Caetano: by name, knowing each purchase, and the tastes and needs of that customer.

“A transformation that seeks to serve consumers where they want and how they want, in the store, over their cell phones or via apps. It is a journey of digitization, of innovation”. Roberto Fulcherberguer, CEO

Due to the pandemic, there is a movement to support neighborhood stores. What is the company’s opinion?

RF – We understand that this is the time to contribute to income generation and movement in the economy of local communities, and we have promoted initiatives that encourage local entrepreneurship by means of our Fundação Casas Bahia. I believe that the greatest legacy of this pandemic is the involvement in social impact actions by companies.

Fundação Casas Bahia is a mirror of our beliefs, of our values ​​as a company and as brands. Its mission is to strengthen the peripheries of cities. To empower people through professional training, culture and qualification. During the pandemic, we had to focus on the basic needs of these peripheral communities. We have changed our actions and we have donated food, beds, hygiene products. This is also empowering. I have a strong conviction that companies do have a social role, and that was clear in the situation we are facing. We are responsible for the environment in which we do business, and we must contribute to making it sustainable in all its forms. Socially, environmentally. We can and must contribute regarding these issues.

“We have the best logistics network in Brazil, and the largest number of distribution centers. We have accelerated our processes to integrate this network with an unbeatable store network, and with our digital sales channels. Retailers do not settle.” Abel Ornelas, COO

Will the year of 2021 be an investment year for the company?

AO – Yes. Among the company’s objectives is the expansion of our operations in different regions of Brazil, focusing country’s North and Northeast.

At Via Varejo, we continue to integrate the physical with the digital. We have accelerated this process so that the physical store is an important point of the experience. It can be the point of purchase, the point of delivery. Today, the stores have three operating pillars: they are a customer relationship center, a product collection point (Retira Rápido), and a logistics hub.

Distribution Center in Jundiaí/SP

What are the logistical challenges that retail faces with omnichannel?

AO – If there are logistical challenges regarding this, Via Varejo is the company best prepared to overcome them. We have the best logistics network in Brazil, and the largest number of distribution centers. We have accelerated our processes to integrate this logistics network with an unbeatable store network, and with our digital sales channels. With the evolution of our Apps and digital channels, today we offer a great experience to our customers. But we do not settle; retailers do not settle. In a few months, we will offer all advantages of this net to our marketplace partners. And then we will have complete solutions for them, with more than competitive costs.

We need to have cheap and efficient logistics. For that reason, we are investing in some fronts such as mini hubs, using all our store capillarity. Soon, we will start offering fulfillment, i.e., making our logistical structure available for delivery to all our partners. We recently acquired a logistics technology company, Asaplog, which gave us the conditions to quickly prepare this whole new logistics ecosystem. We are ready to take all of this to our marketplace partners, in addition to improving our customers’ delivery experience.

“Retail will be increasingly digital. Consumers are becoming more and more familiar with the online, and the scenario of social distancing caused by the pandemic, has accelerated this process even for the more traditional individuals.” Roberto Fulcherberguer, CEO

In the pandemic, many entered e-commerce to survive. Will there be a debugging or will large and small live together on the platform?

RF – The pandemic has only accentuated a characteristic of consumers. They found that they can shop the way they want. So, we believe that more people will continue to buy online. But, for a digital company like ours, it will not make a difference. We will be ready to serve customers where, when and how they want. During this pandemic, in one week we launched Me Chama no Zap (Call me on WhatsApp). We digitalized our salespeople and made it possible for them to continue to serve the customer with the same affection as when they were in stores, via WhatsApp. In this way, we sell to customers in Dubai, in Miami, and become a worldwide Facebook case.

We must be connected with the consumer at all points of contact, with interconnection between physical and online stores. With this in mind, we are increasingly integrating our sales platforms. In this way, our salesperson can offer the customer all products offered online also in the physical store, including those in the marketplace, not limiting the consumer to the store’s product stock, and generating recurrence.

In this integration between digital and physical, we acquired banQi. It is a digital payment portfolio that was created to democratize financial solutions, ensuring greater autonomy and control, and more possibilities for Brazilians. With banQi, we now offer the option of Digital Payment Book for payments on purchases made on our platform.

Is the marketplace an outlet for large and small? Who earns more from the marketplace?

 RF – We have been operating in this segment, as Via Varejo, since April 2013, via Extra’s e-commerce, which was the first chain to offer this solution to customers. This year, we started the third quarter with a focus on the marketplace for our three brands: Casas Bahia, Pontofrio, and Extra.com, seeking to facilitate the entry of new merchants, and to offer them all our logistical power.

We are in process of implementing a faster onboard, with a better platform for integrators with connectors from online stores to marketplaces, promotional tools and a proprietary logistics system that helps with competitive costs and service standards. In digital advertising, we have an Ads area under restructuring so that we can offer more exposure opportunities to all our sellers.

We understand that the marketplace is a reality with no return for online retailers searching for more offers and growth in e-commerce. After all, the more retailers are selling on our websites, the greater the variety of products that we can offer to consumers. This includes segments that we do not traditionally sell in our physical stores and that we also do not have in our own products stock, such as in the categories of house and building, musical instruments, fashion items, and pets.

Na Via Varejo, seguimos com a integração do físico com o digital. Aceleramos esse processo para que a loja física seja um ponto importante da experiência. Pode ser o ponto de compra, o ponto de entrega.” Abel Ornelas, COO

How is Via Varejo preparing itself to face the challenges that lie ahead?

RF – The word that will define us and define this business is adaptability. We are increasingly more agile to perceive trends in consumer behavior, quickly and in any situation. And we will respond to these changes in behavior by offering more and more convenience to our customers. We are increasingly focused on going beyond retail, consolidating our stores and integrating them into our logistics network, with a team trained to fulfill customers’ dreams at all stages of the purchase journey. We have the brands that best communicate with Brazil, and we are logistically positioned to serve all parts of the country with excellence. We have the best team in Brazilian retail, and this is my greatest pride. A team that, in stores, in the office or in remote work, shows innovation, adaptability, and a commitment that will transform – that is already transforming, I would say – the outlook of Brazilian retail.

Fonte: Revista Eletrolar News ed. 138

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