We spoke with Tamara Djogo, Executive Director of Pertini Toys, about their expansion activities in Serbia and how the kids retail market is changing during the pandemic.
For the introduction, please give us an overview of your brand. What makes your brand stand out in comparison to your competition?
PERTINI Toys is a brand focused on the production and distribution of toys, games, and equipment for children.
We have been operating for 30 years now and quality has been a priority for us since the very beginning. This is not just a slogan. We are quite aware of our responsibility and the fact that our products are made for children. Consequently, they have a direct impact on shaping children’s personalities and subsequently our world. Therefore, we are completely focused on providing a good selection of toys that are not only entertaining but also that make a solid foundation for the healthy development of kids.
PERTINI toys are designed to encourage the development of a child’s explorative spirit, concentration, socialization, and other positive aspects leading to the formation of a mature and sound adult. Therefore, our PERTINI brand name is very important to us and we insist on its promotion, all the more so because it is a brand that incorporates the features of the products mentioned above.
A toy can be included in the PERTINI assortment only after a careful analysis while also taking into consideration the health and safety parameters of the product. These qualities make our toys unique, safe, and the right choice for consumers.
Children come to PERTINI shops and choose whatever they want from a large selection of toys while their parents can be assured that all the items on offer have been approved by a team of experts. Parents also know that our toys have long-lasting benefits for the child’s development.
Such an approach has made us distinctive in the market and a little different from our competition because we are insisting on educational, stimulating, explorative, high-quality products that are also affordable.
Besides our own PERTINI brand, our assortment includes leading international brands such as Playmobil, Lego, V-tech, Headu, Viga, Bruder, IMC, Zuru, Goliath… Those are the brands we have been cooperating with for many years as an exclusive representative and distributor.
PERTINI also offers numerous educational programs. We have designed in our shops a Montessori corner, educational wooden corner, a special section for children sports equipment, a place for rhythmic play, music, computer programming, exploration, and many other theme activities.
How many stores do you currently have globally and in the SEE region? Have you had any new store openings or new market entries during the pandemic and where?
It is interesting to note that during the pandemic we had a large expansion and that we made significant steps forward for our company. Of course, all those projects were planned well before the outbreak of the pandemic. However, it did not prevent us to proceed with the realization of our plans, in somewhat different and aggravated conditions while respecting all prescribed measures.
I would like to mention the opening of a large PERTINI TOYS store in the new BEO Shopping Center in Belgrade and the opening of a beautiful shop in the big GALERIJA Shopping Center, which is part of the Belgrade Waterfront complex.
We have also realized a special pilot project, a concept store in USCE Shopping Center, which is something new. This is a PERTINI shop dedicated to the Playmobil brand which we have been representing for more than 15 years in this region. This shop named Playmobil provides many interactive activities where children can put into life their imaginative world.
The main innovation and step forward during the last year made by our company was the introduction of PERTINI FASHION. In this way, we have entered the world of fashion and created a shop-in-shop concept. The first PERTINI FASHION store opened in the ADA MALL in Belgrade, and later within PERTINI shops in BEO Shopping Center and PROMENADA Shopping Center.
PERTINI FASHION is mainly focused on quality and offers leading fashion kids brands like Maison Marasil, Piere Carden, Ciciban, Mandarino…
So far we have 35 stores in total in Serbia including the ones I have just mentioned above. We also operate as a wholesale business in the region and children can buy our PERTINI toys through our regional distributors.
I would like to mention that in addition to the well-known PERTINI retail network, we have 135 PERTINI toys corners across several significant chains of petrol stations (Shell, Moll, EKO, Petrol). They display only a selected assortment of toys, but it gives people a chance to buy 24/7 a good present for kids.
Are you planning any new store openings and where? Do you plan to expand to new markets and if so where?
We wish to expand the PERTINI network as much as possible in order to highlight the importance of play in the upbringing and development of children.
We plan to open many more stores and the first one is the store within a new retail shopping park in Pirot, which is due to open in September 2021.
As for the new markets, last year we managed to enter the US market and we have achieved already significant results. Our goal is to expand our presence in this market where we see our place and potential. We have the same goal for our region as well.
What is the typical size of your stores and what locations are interesting for your further expansion? Which retail locations in your opinion are performing the best?
PERTINI stores occupy on average between 300m2 to 1.200m2, depending on the location. Although we have opened several large PERTINI stores within shopping malls, it is charming and interesting to note that we have managed to keep three small shops in Belgrade that we opened at the very beginning of our company, 30 years ago. We call them Mini PERTINI and they are located in the very center of Belgrade – in Dorcol, in Knez Mihajlova Street, and in New Belgrade. They are unique and they have a special meaning for our loyal customers.
Regarding the best locations, during the pandemic, diversity has proved to be the best option. When the shopping malls were closed, then the retail parks and high street shops were opened. I think that today a balance has been achieved between comfortable shopping within malls and focused planned shopping at concrete locations.
How has the pandemic affected your company and your retail sector in general? How have you been tackling the challenges and have you introduced any innovations in your business?
The pandemic has been a global blow on all areas of life. The entire business world was affected, especially when it comes to assortment, supply, procurement, finance, marketing, communication…
However, thanks to the quick decisions of our management, the flexibility of our company, and the teamwork of employees we have managed in a short period of time to define new parameters of our business activities and redistribution of our capacities.
As an Executive Director, I must say that it was not easy at all to make decisions because for the first time they were not strictly of a business nature but concerned with the health of people and their safety. It was there that we felt the greatest burden and responsibility, but luckily everything ended well.
We have realized a need to strengthen urgently the online business sector through a more rapid flow of information and the expansion of delivery capacities. Therefore, we have focused utterly to eliminate the possible cracks in this segment. We have also strengthened and accelerated both the technological and informative PERTINI online shop, including its supporting platforms and logistics. Finally, we have strengthened cooperation with all relevant online platforms and shops including delivery services we supply through our wholesale – Shoppster, Donesi.com, and others.
Innovations were made not only in the segment of sales but in the segment of creativity and responsibility as well. At the very beginning of the pandemic, when we realized that everybody was confused, we wanted to bring the understanding of the current situation closer to children. Therefore, we produced a film with our Playmobil partners explaining to children what is corona and how they are supposed to act and behave in the newly created circumstances. We are thankful because the project was supported by numerous ministries and the film was broadcasted daily on national TV channels. This is a social responsibility that we cherish and we simply feel it as a right commitment.
Did the pandemic change the consumer habits within your retail sector?
No one expected that the customers would shift so quickly to online shopping. We listened to numerous lectures on the trend of moving to online shops, but no one believed that it would happen in our region this fast. Pandemic reassured us.
However, with the first lifting of restriction measures, shopping centers became busy as in the past. People are eager to socialize and to be entertained. Our shops are exactly the place for kids’ entertainment. They enjoy being in our stores and to be surrounded by a large selection of toys. This experience can not be recreated online, as for kids our stores are a fairytale land.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, what forms of marketing do you use and what form of marketing is the most successful for your brand at this moment?
Each new generation of children is unique. This is determined by the environment in which they live. We who deal with them have to comprehend that the items we are providing must be acceptable and easy to understand while assuming all responsibilities for their content. There is no doubt that children today use communication tools that we could not even imagine and therefore the marketing strategies must be adjusted accordingly. We are the ones who have to lead them in the right direction, to return them to nature and to traditional values like a counterweight.
As e-commerce is rising in popularity, tell us how your online sales have performed since the beginning of the pandemic, and do you believe that online shopping will replace the need for physical stores in the future? What changes, in your opinion, need to be now made in physical stores and in shopping centers? How can shopping centers now support retailers?
All serious retail chains, including us, had to strengthen significantly our online shops.
As I have already mentioned, with the relaxation of restriction measures customers are returning to the physical stores. However, those stores and their approach to the customers are no longer the same. Technology has found very quickly the way to dominate in the physical stores as well. Technology simply has opened new possibilities for communication with the buyers and to provide feedback information to us, the owners.
Thus, now we have QR codes almost on each shelf where customers can read advertisements, then we have gift cards, pick&collect options as a link between online and offline shopping, and many other technical and technological innovations.
Online shops provide basic information about products and attract customers through marketing. However, customers still like to visit physical stores to confirm their choice and to finalize the shopping procedure.
What is next for your brand?
I have mentioned numerous innovations that we have already started. Our goal is to work them out thoroughly in detail and to keep track of time. We wish also to be a pioneer in some educational projects that will leave a mark in our field for prosperity. I believe that we are on a good track to achieve all of our goals.
How do you see the future of retail in general?
As a mix of online and offline shopping. A bridge has been built and this connection cannot be broken anymore. Vouchers, coupons, loyalty programs, applications, gift cards, and many other models – have simply become normality and they communicate and operate both online and offline without any exception.
There is no doubt that online shopping provides fewer expenses. Therefore, the goal of many retailers is to ensure online shopping to expand in trade, which will consequently lead to the closing of numerous stores and shopping centers. In some countries, we already see plans for malls to change their purpose.
However, my personal opinion is that although we lead a busy life and have numerous commitments we still enjoy to do shopping in the physical stores. Physical shopping is still a kind of pleasure, especially for women and children.
Therefore, I believe that this type of shopping will remain especially in our region. We must continue to work in making physical shopping a pleasant and activating experience.