A mile from Ljubljana's downtown and fronting one of the city's
main thoroughfares is where I find the offices for Mercator,
Slovenia's largest retailer. Revenues in 2004 totaled 1.5 billion
Euros with over 16,000 employees. With about 40% share of the
domestic market, think of Mercator as Slovenia's equivalent to
Wal-Mart in the United States.
In the picture accompanying this story you'll see Mercator's
red and white corporate logo atop one of the two head office
towers. From looking at the photo one would think the buildings
are massive. Nope, the buildings have no depth. There's a courtyard
area between the two structures and I check out the small Mercator
store (open to the public) located on the ground floor. Mercator
operates hypermarkets, full-size grocery stores as well as convenience
stores similar to this one. Being adjacent to the head office
I thought it would be a flagship or very modern, experimental
store. No, inside there's nothing fancy or new about it.
The lobby reeks of cigarettes as I check in with the two security
guards manning the reception desk in the shorter of the two buildings.
There's no waiting area in the lobby so I'm assuming the guards
are allowed to smoke at the reception desk. I explain sending
a letter of introduction a month earlier to Ziga Debeljak, president
of the Management Board, but I'm told by the guards to come back
later as everyone is in meetings. Returning isn't a problem since
I'm heading right down the street to visit oil company Petrol,
Slovenia's largest company in terms of revenues with 1.7 billion
Euros-with Mercator a close second.
Returning later in the day I encounter the same two security
guard/receptionists, who despite speaking very little English
are quite friendly and helpful. I'm put on a lobby phone with
a woman who says she's in charge of corporate communications
and explain sending a letter of introduction a month earlier
to CEO Debeljak. The woman goes on to say they never received
the letter because if they had it would have ended up with her.
I ask, "Would someone have a few minutes to meet with me
sometime today?" She then dismissively replies "No,
we're too busy". I tell her I'll leave a copy of the letter
sent to Debeljak along with some news clippings at the reception
desk and I'll check back tomorrow to see if someone has time.
After hanging up the phone I ask the guard to write the woman's
name down on paper for me (Tjasa Ficko).
I don't make it back the next day but have a feeling it would
have ended in a similar fashion as the previous visit.
Company website: www.mercator.si