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The Italian Mass Retail Market is an open yard, while Coop, the market leader, is yet to find the perfect way, despite the successful solution of SAIT

The Coop (1th Italian Retailer) world is in a state of profound change, and the presentation of the 2017 annual report of the small Sait cooperative in Trento is a clear example of this.

Until the beginning of the crisis years (2007), the Italian mass retail market world had characteristics that, thanks to a market which has always been positive since its evolution in the second half of the ’80s, had not imposed extraordinary models of efficiency.

Moreover, the Coop system, as is well known in Italy, thanks to a particular legislative and fiscal system, had grown in an extraordinary way over time, becoming the market leader and allowing itself an elasticity of error that is impossible to conceive for any other retailer, thanks to the particular composition of its balance sheets, where the financial sector has often solved efficiency problems.

The paper castle of the first model of Organized Distribution began to shatter with the advent of the new millennium and with a series of causes that together have profoundly destabilized the corporate structures of many companies in the mass retail market: on one hand, the Basel treaties of the European Union that have imposed a change of attitude on the banking system towards the market, much affected by the mass retail market companies over-indebted in the past. On the other hand, the objective economic crisis, which in Italy lasted longer than normal, led to a clear crisis in consumption and, lastly, to an objective saturation of the market in the number of stores, which affected their dynamics and blocked their growth.

Over time, Coop has not only been a different business model from others, but also a different behavioral model, apparently closer to its members and very attentive to the needs of workers who have little to do with the new needs of the market.

For some years now, Coop Italia has had to change its management system completely, and as a result it has changed all its commercial policies and also tried to optimize its internal activities.

The major life problems of the Coop Operaie Trieste and the CoopCa (two supermarket chains failed) in the north-east of the country have brought to light the real risks that social lending can cause. Coop’s great dream, that of protecting the savings of its consumer members, better than a bank, and at the same time giving them the advantages of purchasing goods, was being ruined in a management system which the market was destroying because it was incompatible with the logic of efficiency.

Mr. Luca Picciareli, SAIT General Manager

SAIT (The Coop supermarket chain of the Trentino Alto Adige Region) is the first real radical change that Coop is making on the market, much more than the large union of cooperatives in which Coop Alleanza 3.0 (Union of 5 Regional Cooperatives) is a protagonist, whose efficiency still needs to be demonstrated, and it is the demonstration that the good market leader has definitely changed its skin, but above all it is the demonstration that the entire mass retail market can become efficient, if the working model changes, bringing to the base of activities the fulfillment that underlie the know-how of doing business: efficiency, organization, balance and competence.

The Italian mass market retail is like a building site where all players have exhibited their “Work in progress” signs. Coop’s complex and articulated results are now smaller thanks to the successful publication of the Sait results; a good omen for Coop Alleanza 3.0, the most important player after Esselunga in the entire Italian market, which has not yet found its optimal solution.


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