TRUE DEDICATION

Morocco 2020/21 | AGRICULTURE & FISHERIES | INTERVIEW

Retail Holding's battle plan against COVID-19 entails several sanitary measures in line with international standards and working hand in hand with the local authorities.

BIOGRAPHY

Riad Laissaoui has been the CEO of Retail Holding since 2015. Before his appointment as CEO, he was deputy CEO of Groupe Label 'Vie for eight years and CFO for six years. He started his career at PwC, where he was in charge of managing multiple corporate audits as well as organizational and managerial consulting contracts in Morocco and abroad. Laissaoui administrates several companies owned by Best Financière and is a regular lecturer at some of the top public and private academic institutions in the country

What have been some of your short-term strategies to tackle COVID-19, and how has it impacted your operations?
I do not manage the operational side of the subsidiaries. I manage the corporate part and the shareholders. Overall, COVID-19 has had two significant impacts. First, it has impacted some developing parts such as Virgin and Kiabi, which are not dedicated to food distribution. We are developing Virgin for cultural products, Kiabi for textiles, and Burger King for fast food. Like many companies in the world, we experienced a complete halt of all activity. On the other hand, our food distribution line embodied by Carrefour is experiencing the opposite; we are facing a customer rush. In the last 10 days, our turnover has been about 25-30% superior compared to the same period in 2019 despite the restrictions and obstacles in the supply chain.

Are you confident about the smooth running of the organization?
Today, all development projects are at a standstill. Our first axis is about food distribution and Carrefour, the second has to do with all other subsidiaries that are at a standstill, and the third is about our development projects. Overall, for the first axis, we are trying to overcome three major difficulties: sanitary hardships, HR, and supply chain. We are a franchise of a large international group, and this entails maintaining international standards. This is most important for supermarket employees, especially cashiers and specialty workers handling fresh products. We have taken several sanitary measures in line with international standards and protocols. On the HR side, we are facing psychological difficulties, time management, transport issues, confinement, mail delays, surveillance, and so on. These are fairly complicated, though we seek to work hand in hand with the local authorities in each city. We must not forget that we serve the public interest. The local and national authorities grant us many privileges and support us in keeping our stores running. In terms of supply chain, we have enough stock to last several months, though not for all products. We are experiencing significant difficulties in terms of local production and imports.

In terms of human resources, are you working at full capacity?
Carrefour is operating at full capacity. We are even trying to bring in additional resources from the group. We do so on a case-by-case basis depending on the challenges faced by each store.

How is the group embracing digitalization?
We have two strategic projects underway across the group: a CSR project and a digitalization project. Each subsidiary is now working with its parent company to maximize the digitalization of loyalty products, internet access, sales, and so on. Each city has its area of competence that defines its overall strategic project.

What is the strategy of the group for 2021?
2020 started really well for all of the subsidiaries, including Burger King, Virgin, Kiabi, and Carrefour. Most likely, Carrefour will have a good year. For the others, we also expect a positive year. If COVID-19 lasts longer, we will have to revise our accounts and estimate our losses. Carrefour is supporting the national effort with a MAD50-million contribution to the Moroccan COVID-19 fund.