Jerónimo Martins: A Portuguese explorer

THE Pingo Doce supermarket in Rua Tomás Ribeiro is hard to spot, tucked among white-and-blue tiled houses and crumbling stucco facades. But inside trade is brisk as shoppers move from mounds of produce to man-sized slabs of bacalhau (dried cod).Portugal is emerging from recession and food sales inched up by less than 1% in 2013, according to early figures from the local retail association. At Pingo Doce stores they rose 3.9%, thanks mainly to extensive price-cutting. Jerónimo Martins, which owns half of the supermarket chain, all of a cash-and-carry group and other bits and pieces, is Portugal’s biggest food-distribution group. It is also Poland’s.The family-controlled firm, founded in 1792, realised in the 1990s that little Portugal was a good place to be from but not a great place to rely on. It made two sorties. One, to Brazil, a former Portuguese colony, flopped: the country was too big, the company too small, and despite speaking the right language, Brazilians proved too different. The other—to Poland, just opening to foreign investment—was a master stroke, or maybe a stroke of luck.In 1995 the company picked up a cash-and-carry chain there, and got to know the market. It decided that frill-free discounting was the way to go. In 1997 it bought Biedronka, with 243 discount stores, adding outlets in small towns at first and seeking the kind of…

Link to article: www.economist.com/news/business/21597924-successes-globe-trotting-grocer-struggling-small-country-portuguese-explorer?fsrc=rss|bus

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