One of Spain’s top-five richest men, Roig, based in the province of Valencia, was recently asked about his region’s trading law changes which allow shops to open whenever they want in officially-recognised tourism belts, rather than – as previously – being legally banned from operating on Sundays and public holidays.
Roig says the issue is ‘complex’, admitting that some industries are in favour and others against.
Mercadona stores only open on Sundays or bank holidays when not doing so would mean shutting two days on the trot, something it never does.
A common example is over Easter or the March Fallas festivals – especially during one recent year when the two coincided and left a string of up to six non-working days linked together.
“In these circumstances, we do open on a Sunday, but doing so always causes the company to lose money,” Roig admits.
“If we’re going to do what the customer wants, we should be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but that’s expensive for us and, even though this might work out well for consumers and even some staff and we have to make sure we look after the boss – the customer, that is – we also need to make money.
“If we opened every Sunday, we would have to put prices up on that day of the week, otherwise the numbers just don’t add up.”
In general, Roig does not want Mercadona to increase its prices.
“That’s not our intention,” he says, firmly.
“We want great products of great quality at a great price, and we have no intention of entering into trade wars with anyone. We want the customer to want excellent, high-quality produce, which sometimes means they have to be produced by other manufacturers rather than being our own-branded goods.”
Mercadona’s objectives for 2018 include investing in more staff, renovating stores, and promoting its online sales.
At present, it is one of the few supermarkets in Spain where customers can order online and have their groceries delivered to their door the same or the next day for a fee.
Last year, Mercadona created 5,000 new jobs and currently has around 84,000 staff members on its payroll, all of whom are on permanent employment contracts, and increased its turnover by 6% to an annual total of just under €23 billion.
The company plans to renovate 1,100 stores within the next two years and, by the year 2023, all 1,600 will be completely modernised to make them ‘more efficient’ and offering ‘more fresh produce’.
This year, the firm wants to increase sales by 2.5%, up its investments by €1.5bn, inflate its profits by 2.5% to €330 million, and take on another 1,000 employees.
A new website for online shopping is expected to be up and running by the second half of 2018, with the same range of products available as in store, although at first Mercadona will pilot this in Valencia city only.
Investment in promoting online sales is budgeted at €20m for this year.
All full-time staff are immediately placed on a net salary of €1,132 per month (€1,312 gross), rising to €1,224 once they have been there two years (€1,441 before tax), a take-home of €1,337 a month after their third anniversary (€1,599 gross), and by the time they have been there four years, Mercadona employees take €1,462 a month home (€1,775 before tax).
These are minimum salaries, paid monthly over 12 months, although bonuses for productivity or meeting targets are set at one or two extra monthly pay-packets per year depending upon the length of service.
Type of employment is also taken into consideration – as these wages are the minimum payable, some will be on higher earnings depending upon their role.
At present, 78% of Mercadona’s staff have been with the company for four years or more.