How does a small family business become an industry leader? This is one of the questions that often inspire workshops and seminars for entrepreneurs. We did it too. And we found the answer in the Miquel Alimentació Grup… Or how the small business founded in 1925 by Pere Miquel Estela, dedicated to the distribution of fruit, cereals and groceries, became a group with a turnover of more than 1,000 million euros, the more employs more than 3,500 people and dwarfs some of the big ones.

But what is behind these numbers? The keys lie in an initial strategy of acquisition, modernization, risk diversification with six business areas (Cash&Carry, Wholesale, Import/Export, Supermarkets, Miquel Food Service and SPAR), a commitment to own brand and a market segmentation according to very specific profiles.

SHOP TO GROW

Since its inception, Miquel Alimentació’s growth has been based on its policy of acquiring other companies in the sector. In fact, the start of the company that brought it to its current size came in 1998 with the purchase of the company Agrupación Comercial, an entity that operated 150 supermarkets in Catalonia and the Valencian Community. In this growth process, Suma, the group’s own supermarket brand, was born in 2000 and three years later they acquired the assets of Dilcasa from Burgos, thus incorporating five cash & carry stores into their Gros Mercat division and expanding the wholesale sales network. The phagocytic strategy does not stop there. In 2006, Miquel Alimentació bought Carrefour’s wholesale distribution subsidiary Puntocash, an operation that allowed it to add 29 Puntocash centers in nine autonomous regions to the group.

OWN BRAND… AND VERY DIVERSE

The catalog brings together up to 1,600 of its own references, which it markets exclusively in Spain and abroad for the retail and hospitality sectors. In food, the Gourmet brand, with 1,200 references, is the most important brand that has a selected line in Gourmet Premium. Sabor Español is the most international with 35 references. In the hygiene and personal care sector, Micadem stands out (159 references), to which must be added the 213 of the Mical brand in relation to drugstore and bazaar.

MODERNIZATION AND CAPILLARITY

With 55 Gross Mercat centers, 3,000 wholesale customers, 536 supermarkets (116 owned and 420 franchised) in 10 autonomous communities, the Miquel Alimentació Grup weaves its success in its logistics network, made up of five logistics platforms – Vilamalla (Gerona), Tortosa (Tarragona ) , Burgos, Mercabarna (Barcelona) and Fuente de Piedra (Málaga) – and 10 cross-docking platforms (handling of goods in transit) with which it covers the national territory.

DIVERSIFICATION

With six differentiated business areas, not only can different market niches be addressed, but also more flexible responses to market fluctuations and risks can be minimized. Cash&Carry, aimed exclusively at professionals in small and medium-sized restaurants and retail, accounts for the largest share of the group’s turnover, at 46%. The second, with 20%, is the franchise, a percentage that the group hopes to increase thanks to the current expansion plan for the SPAR brand, of which it is the franchisor in Spain. The remainder is distributed 15% each to wholesalers and supermarkets and 4% to food service. Miquel Alimentació also wants to convert the hitherto occasional sales to Latin America, Europe, North Africa and China into regular operations. “We want a commercial in each of these areas so that these transactions are no longer timely,” says Pere Laymon, general manager. Currently the group has more than 150 customers and 100 suppliers.

THE VALUE OF THE FRANCHISE

Since October 2009, Miquel Alimentació has been the SPAR brand franchisor in Spain in 28 provinces, an agreement that came about following the dissolution of the European franchise with his previous partner, the wholesale group HD Covalco. Miquel Alimentació has launched an ambitious expansion plan. What advantages does the group have from this alliance with the European brand SPAR? “It gives us knowledge, product brand experience and teaching; We offer them volume, local knowledge and an agile, professional and solvent structure,” explains the managing director.

The bar is the opening of 500 SPAR stores in five years (400 franchisees and 100 own). “Next year we believe franchises will reach 35% of our total business (currently it’s 20%),” says Pere Laymon. As? “We rely on the format of the ultra-close supermarkets: small areas, with a variety of products and individual packaging.”

THE COMPANY IN FIGURES

Solid and continuous growth of Miquel Alimentació in recent years. But the crisis has also left its mark on the accounts. 2009 was a year of declining sales (10.7% less than 2008), lower investments and, paradoxically, higher EBITDA (earnings before taxes). Pere Laymon himself explains the reasons: “50% of the drop in sales in 2009 was due to price deflation; the rest for the conversion of purchases to cheaper products by our customers and by customers that Miquel no longer supplies due to lack of profitability or problems in collecting their bills”.

NEW FORMAT

Miquel Alimentació, through SPAR, will develop a neighborhood supermarket format offering everything in a small space, with single dose products and small packs aimed at families of one or two members. “In previous studies, we analyzed 37 cities, and in them, one-person families are growing in a brutal way. We can easily customize the products in any supermarket. We have everything to be able to carry out this project,” explains Laymon, for whom “we adapt the ultra proximity to smaller formats. 350 square meters does not indicate depth, but it does indicate expansion. What’s being done right now is scaling the supermarket format down to a small scale, and there’s no margin there. You have to reinvent yourself and think about what the customer needs.” The current expansion plan through the franchise sees the partners from Suma and Proxim (group brands) moving to SPAR. “Next year 10% could go through, around 45. Our stores will also go to SPAR, except for the one in Tarragona,” explains Laymon. The initial investment for a SPAR supermarket is between €150,000 and €200,000; there is no canon or royalties. Regarding the franchisee’s profile, “we want partners with whom we share the same commercial interests”.

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