The Zolitude tragedy, which had a big impact on Maxima network and its relations with customers and employees, has left serious and long-term consequences for the company. One of the prime examples is the residents’ boycott of the supermarket – although limited in scale, the company’s sales are already below last year’s levels.
It should be added that Maxima was one of the most popular brands in Latvia prior to the tragedy. DDB advertisement agency’s compiled list of the 50 most popular brands in Latvia of 2012 included Maxima on the 7th place in terms of popularity. Experts cannot say the level of popularity Maxima had last year, Panorāma programme of LTV reports.
Shortly after the tragedy in Zolitude, there was a public call to boycott Maxima across the country. But even now it seems that this form of protest has lost its flame. Even though Maxima representatives say profits have slumped, interviewed customers say there is no point in such forms of protest.
Former Board member of Maxima Latvia Gintars Jasinski’s response to the question whether or not he should take responsibility for the tragedy in Zolitude had caused an explosion of public outcry. ‘What for? What for? Let those who feel responsible leave their posts. I know we did everything we could. We will not look for a scapegoat,’ – he told the media.
Customers forgave neither Jasinskis nor Maxima for this. This resulted in a boycott of Maxima stores. Last November’s profits dropped 20%. Last December, Maxima’s profits dropped by an additional 15%. Even though it has been nearly six months after the tragedy, Maxima still experiences consequences of the boycott. ‘We still feel the consequences. Our financial indexes show as much. If we compare our results with previous years, the decline of turnover remains within 5%. This trend has been present for the past three months. We will see what comes next,’ – says Maxima representative.
Advertisement specialists say this trend will not last a long time. Persons with low income will be the first to come back to Maxima. Customers interviewed by LTV also admit boycott is not the answer.
It is too soon to hope for any improvements, however. The fact that Maxima will have to work hard to restore its reputation is admitted by all sides. No change of brand or advertisements will help here. Maxima needs to take actual steps. There are some positive developments: the company has sorted out and redeveloped its supermarkets’ security measures, provided and continues to provide financial support to victims of the tragedy. Maxima also plans to improve work conditions for its employees.