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Inflation, consumers tighten their belts, shopping priorities
Written by SOT.COM.AL 24 Shtator 2023
High inflation has forced consumers to review their shopping priorities. The retail industry in the country finds a rational behavior of consumers, who are limited to their short-term needs. The tendency to save is making them more and more prone to offers, as operators underline that they have set in motion economic plans to keep under control the pressure for price increases in shelf products. The turning point has already started and the year 2023 has marked an increase in sales volumes. The throne of the best-selling product in the country is occupied by bread, followed by oil, eggs, cheeses or chicken meat. The changes in the list of best sellers often also vary according to the segment these industries address and the offer they have. The impasse with human resources has changed the approach of corporate management and the treatment package of employees at every level. Consumer behavior tends to be the same globally in the face of situations or crises that it may face. And these have not been missing in recent years, giving a domino effect on global markets. First it would be the COVID-19 pandemic where the "unbridled" purchases to create stock gave the first effects in the markets, then it was the dynamic restart after the shutdown of economic life and the lack of raw materials. Then came the energy crisis and finally the Russia-Ukraine war. Inflation, which peaked at 8.3% in October 2022, as a result of all these developments, entered every family, and Albanian ones are no exception. Supermarket chains in the country report a more careful consumer spending. This behavior, which was emphasized especially during 2022 and the first months of 2023, is already giving a calming signal.
Consumers are revising their shopping priorities
Consumers are spending more time in stores to select products that fit their budget but also to better understand the options they have. This comes as a counter effect to the pandemic period when purchases were fast. The current trend is to meet short-term needs rather than building stocks.
"The new more rational consumer trend tends to continue over time and therefore continues to remain the trend to avoid stocks and accumulations. When the customer sees an increase in disposable income, he tends to increase the quality of his consumption, always based on economic availability.
As far as we are concerned, with the fall in inflation, instead of trying to increase the promotional pressure, we have preferred to reduce the prices significantly for many basic items and also for our brand products" says Alessandro Rosa.
The same trend is confirmed by Elona Hametaj, supermarket administrator, estimating that the trend is still that of savings. "Consumers continue to be focused on saving, buying more rationally and choosing more and more private label products, believing that with the same quality they can spend less. At the same time, we see an even greater attention of customers to choose to buy products in stores that have good storage standards, especially in this period of high temperatures, this also brings an increase in volumes, taking small stores as customers. of the neighborhood" underlines Hametaj.
The turning point has started, sales volumes have started to increase
While the year 2022, also due to uncertainties, was a year with an even more frugal tendency of consumers, the year 2023, despite the still high inflation, has marked a turning point. Sales volumes in supermarket chains have increased, reflecting this change on the one hand, but also the shift of buyers from small neighborhood stores to large chains that have been "aggressive" with offers, promotions, and consolidation of sales programs. loyalty.
"Undoubtedly, consumers have become more careful in terms of spending, being oriented towards saving and choosing offers. This behavior in our industry is measured by clear indicators: which is the turnover realized with products on offer compared to the total turnover of the store. This indicator is on the rise, which factors in the behavior of consumers oriented towards offers", affirms Hametaj. According to her, another indicator for sales data is the selection of products, and after the pandemic, buyers have become very careful, increasing the consumption of healthy products.
"So when we say that the customer is oriented towards the price, it does not necessarily mean that he chooses the cheapest product, but he chooses by always analyzing the quality/price ratio and always following the communication of offers for the brands and the quality they want," she underlines. According to Mr. Rosa, currently, in a period of one and a half years, since the beginning of the war, inflation has decisively reversed its trend, settling at around 6-7% in food expenses, compared to the same period of the previous year.
"At the same time, we are witnessing an increase in sales volumes that signals a more relaxed attitude on the part of the consumer" he assesses
The best-selling products, on the throne of Albanians is "bread"
Bread is the main product that owns the purchases of Albanians, followed by other basket products such as oil, eggs, chicken meat, cheeses. "In the top list of the main products sold in volume, the basic basket products such as milk, chicken, eggs, bananas, sunflower oil remain. It is worth noting that these products lead the list of the best-selling products in every food network in the world and not only in our network in Albania. This shows us that the Albanian buyer does not differ much from other buyers in Europe or elsewhere" underlines Mrs. Elona Hametaj. In special cases, you can find the list of the most purchased products from one network to another somewhat modified or adapted to the demand of certain customer segments, but also to the offer and the most representative aspect of the brand.
"Regarding our supermarket, in reality our data is generally a bit different, bread is also present among the first places in the ranking, but in our supermarkets, bread baked at the points of sale and made with semolina is sold. The second best-selling product is table cheeses, among them there are not only white cheeses, but also other cheese products such as parmesan, grana padano and pecorino. In third place, then also in our case, is the chicken meat, but in particular the meat that comes from the cuts of the chicken breast.
In the fourth position are cured meats or sausages, especially represented by hams. In the fifth place is coffee, especially the coffee in capsules, which has already received the approval of consumers not only in Italy but also in Albania", - evaluates Mr. Rosa.
The challenge of human resources changes the approach of companies towards staff
The lack of human resources, a new pandemic in the economic environment, not only in Albania, which is being highlighted year after year, has made businesses in all sectors reflect. The retail industry admits that this situation has oriented them towards a new approach regarding staff, their treatment in financial terms, additional benefits, treatments or career growth.
"Companies must be equipped with training plans, professional growth paths that are convincing in the eyes of colleagues, without obviously forgetting the reward paths that are in line with professional ones. As for us, we have been working on a new training program that includes all levels of the company with the aim of providing tools for the professional growth of associates.
At the same time, in the last 3 years we have revised the general remuneration policy with an average annual increase of 10%, this has been made possible precisely by the professional growth of the associates which has influenced a significant expansion of the company" affirms Mr. Rosa .
The developments that the markets receive require recruiters to respond in real time to this demand, and offering a full treatment package to staff appears to be a choice that works and overcomes the bottleneck of staff shortages. "There is a fundamental change in the nature of the work, which consequently brings new requirements in the recruitment of talents with skills, knowledge in technology, data analysts, etc. mainly these required in the positions of central offices.
Meanwhile, for the operational staff, the provision of flexibility in working hours, the provision of opportunities for career development, the allocation of significant and growing budgets for training, recognition programs and continuous evaluation and close communication with employees are at the core of our strategy. of human resources management. All these have given the expected results and have enabled us to expand, overcoming the challenge of human resources and increasing the number of stores and the number of employees in a very short time," underlines Ms. Hametaj./ Monitor