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Economy

Plaisio CEO Costas Gerardos Featured in The CEO Magazine

ATHENS – Costas Gerardos, CEO of Plaisio, Greece’s leading electronics and lifestyle company, was featured in The CEO Magazine (TCM) for transforming tech retail during the pandemic.

Plaisio has “24 vast stores throughout six cities and one in Bulgaria,” and “sells everything from computers, TVs and phones to washing machines, scooters and kids’ toys,” TCM reported, noting that “its stated aim is to bring affordable tech into every home.”

From the head office in Athens, Gerardos told TCM how the company dealt with the pandemic, noting that “we were told on the Saturday prior to lockdown that all our shops would be shut the following Wednesday,” and “in three days, we completely changed the way the company operates.”

Plaisio “had operated a multichannel business model since 1995 and invested in a highly sophisticated logistics and ecommerce platforms way before others did,” TCM reported, adding that “thus everything was in place to pivot the whole business in a new and innovative direction.”

“Just a year before we’d invested €1.8 million in ecommerce, so consumers already knew they could order from us effortlessly and that we’d get the order right every time,” Gerardos explained, TCM reported, noting that “when people are locked down for weeks, online purchasing becomes a necessity, even if it has previously been an alien concept.”

“We had four times as many people ringing our call center, and it continued even when the lockdowns were lifted,” Gerardos told TCM. “People prefer to avoid spending time driving to the shop, parking or queueing up to pay. They want their purchase to be quick and easy. They also want human interaction, an expert to ask if the product they chose is right for them.”

“If you order something on a Monday and we say it’ll be delivered by Wednesday, then that’s what happens,” Gerardos told TCM, noting that “soon enough, they trust us so word of mouth spreads that we have the best prices and the speediest delivery times. That’s one of the reasons we’ve gained 350,000 new customers, which is an astonishing amount.”

Gerardos began “working for Plaisio the summer he turned eight,” TCM reported, adding that “his father, George, had founded the company in 1969, and knew that one day Costas would take over. Throughout his childhood, he worked in the stores every weekend. When he graduated from school, he completed a year’s national service in the army.”

“Then, in 2003, he returned to Plaisio full time and has been there ever since,” TCM reported, noting that “for the past nine years, he has helmed Plaisio’s corporate team, which keeps the wheels turning.”

“This team looks after the day-to-day aspects of running the business – from business to business to ecommerce, marketing to logistics, finance to human resources – with Costas and George guiding decisions at every step,” TCM reported.

“Basically, I’m making the decisions and running 80% of the company but I’m always consulting with my father,” Gerardos told TCM. “So it’s partly a family-run business but with a corporate aspect as we’re listed on the stock exchange. The only family members are my father and I.”

“One of his proudest moments came last year when schools were trying to organize distance learning,” TCM reported, adding that “children all over the country were trapped in apartment blocks or houses and many families couldn’t afford the relevant technology for lessons. Plaisio quickly stepped in and offered electronic devices to 87 schools on islands and in remote locations.”

“All companies need to care about the communities they operate in,” Gerardos told TCM. “If they suffer, eventually we will, too. We aren’t separate from the wider society; we have a role to play. A big focus for Plaisio right now is finding ways to help those who are facing very real problems.”

“The culture of collaboration and respect also helped amid the chaos caused by the pandemic,” TCM reported, noting that “organizational change is much easier when you have a dedicated and devoted workforce” and “more than 90% of the senior management team has been promoted from within, so they feel an emotional attachment and loyalty to the company.”

“Things in tech change very quickly, so you have to be across the trends in every sector, not just what we sell, but also in the logistics and management methodology,” Gerardos told TCM. “Agility is essential if you suddenly need to steer in a different direction. Luckily, speed is something that’s rooted in our DNA because prices can change four times a day as competition is intense and margins really thin. So we all had the right mindset when events were unfolding around us, and we had to make important decisions in a short space of time.”

“How we’re going to define our future has completely changed in the past 18 months as people throughout Southern Europe are getting very savvy at online shopping,” Gerardos told TCM. “Before, they’d often browse online but then go into a shop to make the purchase; however, internet transactions have more than doubled, so what does that mean? Stores will continue to exist, but their mission will change. We’re not entirely clear on what that will be because the compass hasn’t stabilized yet.”

“Right now, the ground is still shaking from the impact of the virus, so it’s hard to predict exactly how the future will map out for us,” he said, TCM reported. “In lockdown, everything was online, but when it ended, we all wanted to go outside and back into shops. We don’t know if that’ll still be the case months down the line when they have the option of home delivery.”

On the prospect of opening more brick and mortar stores in the near future, Gerardos told TCM that “it would cost a great amount of money as you’d also have to train up all the shop assistants.”

“It would be so easy to go into the red if we explore that route and it’s not managed well. One thing is more certain: over the next few years, we’ll capitalize on the very big brand equity we inherited during the pandemic and continue to invest in digital. There’s also the last-mile delivery revolution that’ll impact customer habits and transform the whole retail paradigm,” Gerardos told TCM.

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