Банкеръ Weekly

Briefs

HYPERMARKETS MADE BULGARIAN PEOPLE CHANGE HABITS

The World Cup was an exciting event not only for the soccer fans, but also for the sponsoring companies. Among the Bulgarian visitors of the final game in Nigata, Japan, was Bozhidar Kolev, Videolux Trade Director. The world's technological giant JVC invited his company to the event, as well as the other best traders of the brand throughout the world. Apart from the final game, Kolev and his companion, Videolux Administrative Director Todor Belchev, also attended the party organized by the Japanese concern. I travel around the world a lot. I have frequently visited Asia, but I have never felt the pleasure that I now experienced during the game and the party celebrating JVC's 20-year World Cup sponsorship, Mr. Kolev said. There were more than 1,000 guests to the party coming from all the five continents.The 34-year-old Kolev probably wouldn't have visited the dream game, if he had not built the Sofia-based Technopolis hypermarket. The huge shop selling white and black equipment is owned by Videolux. According to many citizens of the Bulgarian capital, the shop offers some of the most attractive prices of home appliances. It was established in December 2001 in the so called Sofia Business Park which was opened recently, too.Plasma TV sets offered by JVC, Sony, Pioneer, and LG are the most expensive products in Technopolis. Prices vary from BGN11,000 to BGN22,000. Frequent customers of the shop are Bulgaria's former Premier, Ivan Kostov, and his major opponent in the former cabinet, Bogomil Bonev. A week ago we also welcomed the US Ambassador to Sofia, James Pardew, who bought a few cassettes, said Kolev. Georgi Parvanov and Roumen Ovcharov have visited the shop too. We are now waiting to see Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha here. No one of these clients has expected to be treated in any particular manner, however. Currently, the hypermarket receives the biggest orders from hotel owners - obviously construction works are very active along the seaside. In turn, Bozhidar Kolev likes the products of extravagant brands like Haier. The engineer in microelectronics spends most of his time traveling and meeting producers and organizers of exhibitions. He began trading electronics ten years ago. At that time the legal business was controlled by the already non-existent state-owned company Corecom, and the illegal one - by Arabian and Israeli companies, Kolev said. Our greatest chance was that the market accepted new players easily at that time. Risk needed to be taken and also to be combined with luck. We hesitated a lot about what exactly we should do. For a long period of time we did not import by ourselves. We bought from Arabian and Jewesh businessmen. They were the only ones who kept in touch with the producers in the years following the transition. One of our first attempts in imports was made in 1995 through the Austrian representative office of JVC.The profits encouraged him to open 15 Videolux shops in Bulgaria's biggest cities - Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Rousse, Bourgas. Beside the one in Sofia, all of them are still existing. When we created Technopolis, we changed the strategy in Sofia and concentrated everything on it, Bozhidar Kolev said. The shops in the other towns remained, because they have traditions there and people are still looking for them.The idea of building Technopolis was born while the trader traveled around Europe and Asia. He noticed that people in large cities go shopping mainly to oversupplied shops in the suburbs. We asked and were given good instructions from our Asian partners, Kolev said. It was easy to develop the shop as the Sofia citizens already knew the meaning of Metro, Billa, Ramstore, etc. According to Bozhidar Kolev, the construction of Technopolis and its supply with commodities cost BGN7MN, part of which was provided with a bank credit. The German Lindner construction concern holds a stake in the hypermarket too, added Kolev. We were lucky that our plans coincided with the intentions of Lindner to build Sofia Business Park. They intend to invest BGN200MN in the building of the park. They appeared the most serious partner that we could have wanted to have. The hypermarket was built in five months and the work corresponded to the German quality standards. The construction of the second Technopolis - this time in Varna, is going on well, too. We hope to make investments in all Bulgarian towns where we've built a shop network. We are already investigating the market in neighbour countries where there are still free niches - Yugoslavia and Macedonia.

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