Ippokratis Kourkoumpas: Public's immediate plans for Cyprus amid seismic shifts in retail trade
07:14 - 26 January 2024
The new trends affecting the psychology of the average consumer, at all levels, have been highlighted by the Marketing Director Cyprus at Public Group, Ippokratis Kourkoumpas, who describes the changes in the retail trade sector in recent years as seismic shifts with consumers constantly looking for a more renewed and upgraded experience.
In an interview with InBusinessNews, in the context of "IN Business Forecasting 2024," Kourkoumpas points out that the prospects for retail trade remain, for now, positive, although inflation is putting pressure on the majority of its branches.
A trend that is expected to continue in 2024 is that the physical store remains the first choice of the consumer, but must also coexist with the electronic one.
The priorities of Public in Cyprus include the expansion of its product range, as well as the creation of a new omni loyalty programme, while immediate plans include the expansion in areas such as home living and fitness and wellbeing products.
At the same time, Ippokratis Kourkoumpas refers to €60 million sales through the Public network in Cyprus, which, he noted, stand out for the single, multi-channel, shopping experience that includes the entire consumer journey both in the online store and in in physical stores.
How do you see the economic environment shaping up in 2024, in light of inflationary pressures, high interest rates and unpredictable ever-changing geopolitical developments?
Our planet is currently at a pivotal point with the global economic map being shaped. High interest rates continue to be a major issue, energy costs are soaring, and geopolitical developments do not "breed" optimism.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict raging in our "neighborhood", as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine, are largely responsible for the situation that has developed.
All of the above form a difficult global economic environment in which the Cypriot economy must also operate and develop.
The estimates for GDP growth in 2024 are encouraging, while forecasts for private consumption are also optimistic. At the same time, in 2024 the development or initiation of projects linked to the National Recovery and Resilience Plan is expected.
Cyprus has proven its adaptability to new conditions. I am optimistic that within this international environment of intense challenges, the country is in a position to take advantage of emerging opportunities to strengthen and transform its economy.
Cuts and bold reforms to return investors
What do you consider to be the biggest and most difficult challenges that the Cypriot economy will have to face?
The challenges are directly linked to geopolitical developments, while the recent past is also highly correlated, which does not particularly help efforts to convince investors to come to Cyprus.
Among the challenges, I would note - apart from inflation - Cyprus' low ranking in the effectiveness of governance and the difficulty in accessing financing.
At the same time, inflexible spending and public debt are always some of the challenges that "threaten" the Cypriot economy.
On the other hand, the country's return to investment grade is an important development, which may strengthen investors' confidence in the economy. For investors to return, cuts and bold reforms are needed in all important sectors of the economy.
To achieve this, we are required to keep pace with the trends and changes in the global economy at a faster pace. For example, the advantages that the technological revolution brings with it, with artificial intelligence as its main vehicle, can be used in the best way.
The first choice is the physical store, but it coexists with the electronic one
What do you think will be the course of the sector in which you operate in 2024? What are the biggest industry trends/changes you anticipate in 2024?
Estimates for retail trade are currently positive due to the encouraging forecasts for private consumption. Of course, obstacles remain, as inflation puts pressure on most industries, globally as well as locally.
The changes in retail in the past years have been seismic with consumers constantly wanting a more refreshed and upgraded experience. New trends affect the psychology of the average consumer, at all levels.
An indicative example, which we see every day, is the physical store which remains the consumer's first choice, but which must also coexist with the electronic one. We expect this to continue in 2024.
What are the most important problems that are currently plaguing your sector and the solution of which you consider to be a priority in view of the new year?
As we have mentioned above, inflationary trends affecting the entire economy are the #1 problem we face. Taking advantage of our good relations with the international market we try to constantly renew our stock keeping the prices low in order to provide consumers with the best options, in the most value-for-money package.
At the same time, one of the most important issues that we face in our operation both in Cyprus and in Greece is that retail is not considered by most as a career sector. We see this belief slowly changing, because in recent years very large companies have developed structures and a technocratic approach.
At Public we provide continuous development opportunities, recognising the contribution of our staff to the realization of our vision and strategy. We promote a positive collaborative environment, based on four values that encourage respect and inclusion, innovation and love for the environment.
Expansion into home living and fitness and wellbeing products
What are your organisation's plans/strategy for 2024? Should we expect new products/services/developments and your further establishment in the market? Will it be a year of growth/expansion or maintaining your existing market position? Can you tell us about any of your plans in particular?
Despite the solid foundations we have laid, our goal this year is still to strengthen our omnichannel strategy, and to further strengthen our ecosystem. Our priorities are the expansion of the product range, as well as the creation of a new omni loyalty programme.
Our immediate plans include expansion into areas that serve the best quality of life for consumers, such as home living and fitness and wellbeing products.
At Public we value the possibility of choice and the freedom of the consumer. This is the Group's philosophy that has led to an omnichannel structure, a multi-year strategic choice that bears fruit and is consistent with the global omniretail model. The multiple channels of contact with the consumer, as well as their interconnectivity, add great value to the shopping experience.
Today, the consumer can visit one of the 6 stores in our network throughout Cyprus, and get the product they want. Alternatively, he can choose it through public.cy when he is in the store or in his own space.
The above, combined with the upgraded services we offer, such as flexible payment methods, after sales and delivery, give the consumer the level of service he is looking for.
The above also translates into numbers. Today in Cyprus, Public is the No1 retailer of technology, home living & entertainment in size with the highest quality and the largest variety of products and services.
With €60 million in sales through our network in Cyprus, Public stands out for its unified, multi-channel, shopping experience that includes the entire consumer journey both online and in physical stores.
What role does technology, such as artificial intelligence, play and what changes is it expected to bring about in your field?
Technological innovations are constantly changing our lives. At Public we have proven that we dare to adopt international trends faster and experiment. We believe that artificial intelligence will provide significant added value to us and to consumers.
For example, very soon through artificial intelligence we will be able to collect product characteristics from suppliers with greater speed and accuracy. In the area of data analytics, we will soon have enormous customisation possibilities as well as tools that we did not imagine. For example, we could schedule staff shifts, taking into account traffic forecasts and factoring in factors such as weather, market, etc.
In order to experiment and be ready to accept changes smoothly, education is very important.
At Public, training our people is not limited to a simple HR tool. It is crucial to constantly update and train our staff in new technologies, to be able to compete with new ideas and innovations.
For this purpose, we created a digital tool for training and upskilling our people, so that they can access specialised sessions at any time.