THE INVASION OF HYPERMARKETS
The increasing presence of hypermarkets in the rating of companies with the largest turnover in 2001 is yet another proof of the ousting of small firms from retail trade. The pioneer Metro achieved a tangible growth of sales within a year - from BGN434MN to BGN521MN - ranking 9th among the 100 Bulgarian companies with the highest turnover. The company, which is in fact owned by Metro Cash Carry International Holding, registered in the Netherlands, has already opened seven hypermarkets in Bulgaria. Within the same period the Austrian chain BILLA registered sales worth BGN85MN. This is a remarkable increase from the year 2000, when the turnover was BGN11MN. BILLA has nine hypermarkets now and intends to open five more in 2003.The other hypermarkets are lagging behind. Ramstore (a company of the Turkish Migros) has reported sales worth BGN10MN in 2001. Ramstore also has ambitious expansion plans.ENA Markets reported a turnover of BGN6.7MN. After the Greek company which owns the chain was sold to Belgium's Delheiz in 2001, negotiations were held for the sale of the store in Bulgaria to Fantastico's owner Van Holding. However, it was finally purchased by the Bourgas-based Delta-C, owned by the sole trader Spas Spassov, and the hypermarket opened doors again. A second store is to be soon opened in Montana. Fantastico, including 19 supermarkets and stores of the cash carry type, has considerably better results. The chain's 2001 turnover has almost doubled, exceeding BGN22MN. Fantastico's owner Van Holding is 100% property of the off-shore company Vinterco Trading (a Bulgarian company, managed by Valeri Nikolov).Boila Trade Centre lags far behind with sale proceeds of BGN3.6MN in 2001. The performance of the Varna-based Piccadily should not be ignored. The chain, controlled by Alexander Tumparov (who participates also in firms connected with Eurofootball), had a turnover of BGN8MN in 2001.The performance of specialized stores for household appliances, audio and video equipment, is also interesting. KK and Omax Trade, which in 2001 opened Technomarket in the Drouzhba housing complex in Sofia, rank 76th and 79th according to their sale proceeds. Their total turnover exceeds BGN110MN, but is not formed by the store only. The two companies have common shareholders - Nikolay Kitov, Mina Kitova, and Hristo Kussev. A shareholder in Omax is Marina Zlatarova, who was in the management of Roussensko Pivo and a number of other firms. The manager of Omax Trade Nikolayi Kitov holds half of the shares in Top Video, ranking 133rd with a turnover of BGN38MN.Videolux, which has opened recently its first store of the Technopolis chain and is already preparing the construction of a third one in Plovdiv, reported a turnover of BGN18MN in 2001. Todor Belchev and Bozhidar Kolev, who are partners in it, also participate in the management of the investment intermediary Betacorp, in which Videolyux holds 21 per cent.The invasion of hypermarkets in Bulgaria could be well predicted. Their market share in this country is still four or five-fold lower than in Western Europe. The development of big trade chains is favoured by the relatively low prices of real estates in Bulgaria. The only hindrance for the opening of stores of that type in the smaller towns is the lack of solvent demand there.