Billa Czech Republic to launch an e-shop as part of modernization overhaul

The Austrian supermarket chain is planning to revolutionize its offer in the Czech Republic with major investments from abroad.

 William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass
Published on 10.09.2021 15:31 (updated on 10.09.2021)

The shopping landscape in the Czech Republic is changing. With the pandemic forcing many to turn to online grocery shopping, the remarkable success of online grocery brands such as Rohlik.cz and Košík.cz is now encouraging traditional brick-and-mortar supermarkets to introduce their own e-shop options.

The online shopping revolution will see Billa, one of the largest supermarket chains operating in the Czech Republic, create its own e-shop selling 15,000 products for home delivery or click-and-collect in-store.

The new e-shop comes as part of a modernization strategy to be implemented under new Billa CEO Dariusz Tomasz Bator, who until now led the chain's operations in Slovakia. As well as selling groceries online, the new-look Billa will feature an expanded self-service checkout network, greater in-store digitization, the installation of electronic price tags and the implementation of Scan & Go systems. The chain also aims to expand with more stores in small towns and villages with up to 3,000 inhabitants. All this is set to be achieved through major investments into the Czech Republic by the Austrian brand.

“This year we will invest a total of around CZK 2 billion into the Czech Republic. This investment will include expansion, the modernization of stores, and the financing of other projects. Part of this sum is earmarked for e-commerce, but further investments in this area are planned for 2022,” said Dariusz Tomasz Bator to Hospodářské noviny.

Billa has significantly upped its investment in the Czech Republic: last year, investments in the country totaled around CZK 1 billion, or half of the amount planned for this year. The chain’s plans in online shopping are particularly ambitious, and the company aims to overtake competitors including Rohlik.cz, Košík.cz and Tesco by becoming the number one online food seller in the Czech Republic.

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“By entering the online market, we are responding to the requirements of Czech customers,” said Bator. “We want to enable them to buy quickly and safely from the comfort of their homes.”

The launch of Billa’s online shop is planned for 2022, allowing enough time for the brand to prepare for anticipated high demand. It is hoping to avoid the embarrassing scenes witnessed when German competitor Lidl introduced an e-shop for fashion and household goods in the Czech Republic, but was unable to meet its delivery schedules due to unexpectedly high customer interest. Billa’s previous CEO said that the company would only introduce an e-shop if it could guarantee quality and professionalism.

There is speculation that Billa’s new e-shop could be linked to a similar service for Penny supermarkets, which are also owned by Billa’s Austrian parent company Rewe. The first supermarket chain to offer goods online in the Czech Republic was British company Tesco, whose iTesco service is now available to 6.1 million people around the country. Other supermarkets such as Albert and Globus are meanwhile experimenting with e-shops, responding to the changing nature of Czech shopping habits in the wake of the pandemic.

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