INTERVIEW WITH MR. FRANCISCO JAVIER DE LA FUENTE APARICIO – EL CORTE INGLESJuly 15, 2021
1.Kindly tell us something about your work profile/business including yourself.
El Corte Inglés (ECI) is the largest Department Store in Europe and one if the largest in the world according to its annual turnover. It was established 80 years ago in Madrid, and it has global presence through different business models. It is one of the most diversified retailers in its range including Fashion Retail, Supermarket, Travel Agency, DIY business, E-commerce, etc. El Corte Ingles Group accumulates also wide experience in global sourcing with more than 11 Trade offices all over the world, being ECI Ho Chi Minh office the one in charge of entire South East Asia perimeter.
I was born in Spain in 1982. I am the responsible of El Corte Ingles HCMC office as Chief Representative. I recently joined the company after spending the last 7 years serving El Corte Ingles through one of its Safety & Quality service providers. In the past, I had occupied different positions in the areas of marketing and sales for international business development in Spain. During that time, I was also travelling to Asia and working closely with its partners before he decided to join El Corte Ingles.
2. When did you first start your business in Vietnam and how has your professional career or your company’s career developed since then?
El Corte Inglés is in Vietnam through a Representative Office since 2014; but for me who joined the company in May 2021, I am still waiting my entry visa to join the team at HCMC.
3. How do you think EVFTA will benefit EU and Vietnam companies after this pandemic? Are there any new strategies that you’re adapting for this new situation?
EVFTA will imply a before & after in terms of economic growth of ASEAN countries and commercial relationship with Europe, Asia Pacific and Americas. The “zero tariff” will facilitate the export and import of certain products and El Corte Inglés is aware of this opportunity. Considering it was signed before pandemic, we won’t be able to see all the potential and positive impact until pandemic is over and commercial transactions come back to normality. It is expected a big growth in terms of production and manufacturing in entire ASEAN perimeter.
4. What do you think are the biggest challenges in your industry in the future with EVFTA?
The retail consumer market in Europe and America are no longer based its purchasing decision in pricing factors; but in environmental, product quality and social responsibility features too. The Retail market needs to adapt to this new reality and transfer the new habits and mentality to its entire supply chain. EVFTA will presumably bring an increase of business and manufacturing activity to entire ASEAN and the local agents must be ready to understand and adapt to the new challenges in the market.
5. In relation to the current pandemic (CoVid-19) that the world is facing, how has your company been affected and what actions do you propose to better the situation?
As a retailer with a very relevant presence of stores, our company has been affected by pandemic in terms of sales but also in terms of transforming business model: E-commerce and proximity stores has gained importance during pandemic, same as other categories like Home Decoration and Do It Yourself, which showed a positive development. In terms of prevention, Health & Safety and employee awareness of virus, the company has succeeded in putting in place successful measures at working place to ensure the safety of its employees. El Corte Inglés has also played an important role during the most critical moments of the pandemic, helping Spanish Authorities in supplying products like face masks, Personal Protective Equipment, etc. During this pandemic period, all employees have learnt to be part of the solution and not the problem and that is the best proposal for acting in the new era.
6. Please tell us a little about future plans of El Corte Ingles.
El Corte Ingles’ objective for the future is to keep growing in terms of number of products sourced with a clear added value for our clients, trying to find the best partners in South East Asia and create long term and mutually beneficial relationship with them.
Many thanks to Mr. Javier for sharing your experience with us.