The departure of Dimas Gimeno from the El Corte Inglés board of directors in 2018, when he left before being expelled after a confrontation with his cousins, Marta and Cristina Álvarez Guil, marked the end of a convulsive coexistence in the group.
But the problems had only just begun.
The new president, Marta Álvarez, got the solution right in her premiere before the shareholders' meeting, back in August 2019. “There are not two clients, one digital and the other physical”, she said, but one “whom we must serve for the channel you decide ”.
El Corte Inglés prepares the voluntary departure of up to 3,000 employees, the largest adjustment in its history
When the virus spread and citizens barricaded themselves behind the doors of their homes, the choice became an obligation: e-commerce exploded as shopping malls closed and only their food segment continued to operate.
The pandemic evidenced - and accelerated - a change in consumer habits that even before the virus showed the seams of a model that used to seem invincible.
El Corte Inglés sources assure that the reaction was "quick."
The sale of food was multiplied by five, and services such as
click & car
, which allows the customer to make the purchase online and pick it up, grew strongly.
However, shopping malls closed for months put a heavy burden on their accounts, while digital native competitors such as Amazon strengthened their dominance.
And the dependence on presence was erected as an insurmountable obstacle in a Spain withdrawn in the living room and without tourists.
Along the way, there have been no shortage of announcements of initiatives to encourage business: an alliance in the alarm market with MásMóvil in November, a foray into the logistics pie offering its services to third parties in December, and a renewal of its mobile application in February .
The reinvention, however, seems still half done for a giant chained to its buildings.
Now, expressions such as "resizing" and "adapting resources" are the ones that resonate the most from the company, which has decided to put aside the containment of damages from "relocate" to launch a restructuring unprecedented in its history.
The small size of the companies has been used repeatedly as an argument to explain the blow of the pandemic to the Spanish economy, among the most affected of the surrounding countries.
The passage of time is showing that the big companies, despite their greater financial muscle, will not come out unscathed either.