“Grupo Exito is constantly looking for expansion opportunities”
Carlos Mario Giraldo, President of Grupo Exito
As a subsidiary of the Casino Group, Exito is the largest retailer in Colombia, Latin America’s 3rd largest economy with 48 million inhabitants. Exito posts profitability figures, which could make Western European hypermarket retailers pale with envy. Sophie Baqué met Carlos Mario Giraldo, Exito’s President since March 2013.
Sophie Baqué: Could you please introduce Exito?
Carlos Mario Giraldo: Grupo Exito is a multi-format retailer based in Medellin, in Colombia. It manages hypermarkets (Exito chain), supermarkets (Carulla, Exito Super, Exito Vecino), convenient stores (Surtimax) and discount stores (Super Inter). We also have e-commerce (exito.com, carulla.com and cdiscount.com), real estate (Viva shopping centres), banking, insurance, travel agencies and mobile phone activities. In Colombia, Grupo Exito is the largest private employer and reached a 44% market share of modern retail in the end of 2014. In total, we manage 591 stores, of which 91% are in Colombia and 9% in Uruguay. I’ve been with Exito since 2008, and I was promoted from Operating Director to Chief Executive Officer in March 2013.
SB: “Exito” means “success” in Spanish. How was this Colombian retail empire created?
Carlos Mario Giraldo: The first Exito supermarket opened its doors in 1949 at the same time as an apparel factory selling its clothing in that store. After several buyouts, the group saw exceptional expansion between 1991 and 2013, which was led by my predecessor Gonzalo Restrepo Lopez. In 1999, Casino acquired a 25% stake in Exito and took full control in 2007. Driven by the new French shareholder, Exito rapidly took a majority interest in Carulla, Colombia’s largest supermarket operator. An integration program of more than 150 stores was successfully carried out, while preserving the best both companies had to offer in terms of experience and expertise. With this acquisition Exito became the retail leader in Colombia in terms of sales and number of stores.
SB: In 2014, turnover and profitability increased. What is driving this growth?
Carlos Mario Giraldo: Last year, net revenue grew by 6.8% to…