‘No fintech gives credit like Casas Bahia’, says president of Via

‘No fintech gives credit like Casas Bahia’, says president of Via

Sell ​​in installments to those who cannot pay in cash. The strategy created in the 1950s by Casas Bahia to serve those with cash in their pockets remains current.

With each installment paid, the low-income consumer feels more confident in making a new purchase and thus helping to move a business that earned more than R$34 billion in 2020.

The business is now called Via and brings together the Casas Bahia and Ponto (formerly Ponto Frio) stores, forming one of the largest furniture and home appliance retailers in Brazil. The motto of “buy now, pay later” has gained increasing strength since 1957, when the first Casas Bahia was inaugurated in São Caetano do Sul, in the metropolitan region of São Paulo.​

From the old booklets that won the customer loyalty, Via is now starting to offer cash to those who need it most: in July, the company was authorized by the Central Bank to operate its digital financial platform, BNQI Sociedade de Crédito, under the bank’s banner BanQi digital

Since then, it has been offering loans even to non-clients.

“Today there is a lot of fintech, but who gives credit? About 40% of Brazilians do not have a financial account, have no history of financial relationships, do not have a credit card. A large mass of Brazilians do not have a steady job. It is in ours. DNA give credit to this audience”, says Roberto Fulcherberguer, president of Via.

“It’s not simple. Those who tried, have been having serious default problems. But we have more than 60 years of experience embedded in low-income credit models.”

According to Fulcherberguer, the company started making personal loans uncoupled from the purchase of products. “It’s pure personal loan, really. It’s been a success,” he says, who is eager to start offering credit to Via’s marketplace sellers as well.

“When the consumer buys an item online that is in several marketplaces, in ours he will have a differential: if he does not have a credit card or has a low limit, he will be able to pay in installments. This may be a sale that the seller he wouldn’t be able to do it in other places, but he’ll do it with us. It’s a gigantic facilitator”, says the executive, noting that 2021 has been “the year of the marketplace at Via”.

In September, the company won 100,000 sellers on its platform, a leap from the 10,000 it had added in January. All the interest in digital sales has a reason: online sales already represent 60% of Via’s sales, which totaled R$ 18.1 billion in the first half of the year.

The interview was granted before the company entered a period of silence, on October 18, due to the release of the balance of the third quarter.

How is consumers returning to brick-and-mortar stores as pandemic restrictions are relaxed? We don’t see the stores with the same intensity that we saw when they reopened last year. It’s not yet possible to know if it’s a snapshot of the moment, or if it’s a trend, it’s still too early. But we continue with accelerated growth, capturing market share. Digital remains strong, even with the reopening. It will become increasingly difficult to understand the origin of sales. The seller is physically in the store, but making an online sale, for example.

As soon as the pandemic started and the stores closed, we equipped all our salespeople, who now total 23 thousand, with a new cell phone sales channel, “Me Chama no Zap”, which sells through WhatsApp. In the second quarter of this year, the online seller accounted for BRL 2.1 billion of GMV [volume bruto de mercadoria, indicador de vendas online]. Of the total channel, 30% are new customers who had never had contact with our platform. Another 30% are customers that were in our base of 97 million consumers as inactive, and have been reactivated.

But the vast majority of Brazil still does not buy online, internet sales represent only 11% of retail sales. For us, however, they are already 65% ​​of the total.

Did the dispute stop being focused on stores and migrate to digital? Is that what explains the fact that Via closed about a hundred stores between the third quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of this year? There was a lot of overlapping of stores, more than one on the same street or even on the same block. It was the way retail grew in the old days, the more points the better. We continue with good points and they are fundamental within this new reality of the multichannel consumer. They work as hubs [centros] logistics and, at the same time, a space for customer relations and as an exhibition of our product mix.

At the end of the second quarter, we had 1,009 points of sale. We also have 1.1 million square meters of CDs [centros de distribuição]. But that doesn’t solve my logistics, because it’s not the last mile, it doesn’t get close to the customer. Hence the fact that stores are of strategic importance. The customer can buy online and pick it up at the store, or receive it at home, from stock at the nearest store.

We have a lot of capillarity. We deliver the same day in 500 cities across the country. In fact, of the 5,570 municipalities in Brazil, there are only three to which we have not yet sold, our product has not yet arrived: Itamarati (AM), Uiramutá (RR) and São Félix do Tocantins (TO). But let’s do a telemarketing action to solve this [risos].

What will be the profile of Casas Bahia and Ponto’s consumers in ten years’ time? Consumers will buy when, where and how they want. Start the process in the store, for example, and finish it online. More and more, the center of the strategy will be the customer, not the medium in which he buys. Let’s look at the lifetime value, that is, the life cycle of this customer, how much on average he invests in products or services in the period in which he interacts with the company.

In addition to capillarity, our great differential is credit. The consumer wants a relationship, not a cold online sale. If he’s in the store and logs into our wifi network, I can call him by name. And at the same time have your purchase history at hand, know what they have already purchased and may need.

Via received authorization from the Central Bank to start offering personal credit. The company already has a tradition of selling to low-income people. But don’t you fear greater defaults at this time of crisis? We have already started to make personal loans uncoupled from the purchase of products. It’s really a pure loan, something we didn’t do. It’s been a success. We already have a long financial relationship built with low-income consumers, we have a large amount of information that is being worked on by our credit engines.

We can’t open numbers yet, but we are very happy with the performance of the personal loan. Very happy with capital letter. Default is comparable to what we have in the digital booklet operation, below 5%. If the consumer has five bills up front to pay, ours has a privilege. It’s the company that gives him access to what he needs. It is a differentiated, humanized relationship.

What is the interest rate charged? The fee is by CPF, we customize it according to the customer’s history or your score [pontuação que indica se é bom ou mau pagador]. The chance of him having his credit approved with us is much more assertive than on other platforms. We found that 45% of consumers who buy through the digital booklet declare that they have no other way to buy financed if not through this platform.

Despite all the fintechs? Today there is a lot of fintech, but who gives credit? About 40% of Brazilians do not have a financial account, do not have a history of financial relationships, and do not have a credit card. A large mass of Brazilians do not have a steady job. It is in our DNA to give credit to this audience. It’s not simple. Those who tried, have been having serious default problems. But we have over 60 years of experience embedded in low-income credit models. It’s not something that turns over overnight.

This company was related to grandparents, parents and now with children of the same family. There are three generations, I even get goosebumps to think about it. We see people now celebrating the opportunities for access to goods that parents and grandparents had. We have a huge inclusion tool in our hands, very powerful, that we handle with all the care, all the affection, so that it fulfills an important social function.

The dispute between sellers has increased a lot between Via, Magazine Luiza, AliExpress, Mercado Livre and Americanas.com. Why? The seller is a retailer and the marketplace is a large digital mall. The seller wants to be in a good mall, with a good level of service and a good flow of customers. As much as he wants to be in all marketplaces, it is not interesting to negotiate delivery with everyone, because this involves more working capital, it is more inventory that he has to buy, to place on more sales fronts.

We will offer the seller the fullfilmet model: he will be able to place his stock inside our CDs. We manage this stock and do all the logistics, even for a sale that is made by the competition. This is because I have a very competitive logistics cost, I operate throughout Brazil. I’m just going to put more boxes to move, which will dilute my cost.

Likewise, if the consumer did not like what he bought with this seller and want to return it, he does not need to go to a post office for reverse logistics. Go to any Via store and return it. You can even exchange for another item right there. It’s the omnichannel to the extreme.

And what is Via’s financial differential for the seller? By early 2022, BanQi will offer credit as a service, available to our sellers. Instead of swiping your customer’s credit card, the seller will be able to make the sale using our financing model. For the shopkeeper it is very good, he does not have the MDR costs [taxa de processamento de pagamentos no cartão]. It’s good for us because we add new customers to our ecosystem. We have the logistical advantage, the financial service, and a group of 23,000 salespeople working for it.

“Me Chama no Zap” already represented, at the end of the second quarter, 18% of the GMV of our marketplace. Not by chance, this is the year of the marketplace on Via. We started 2021 with 10,000 sellers and reached 100,000 in September.

Via changed headquarters [está no Eldorado Business Tower, em Pinheiros, zona oeste de São Paulo], leaving behind the old building in São Caetano do Sul, where Casas Bahia was born – symbol of a past of conquests, but also of scandals involving part of the founding family, the Kleins. How relevant are ESG concepts in Via’s new trajectory? I have 97 million customers. How can I relate to Brazilian diversity if it is not represented in my workforce? Today we are 46 thousand employees, more than half of the team is made up of women. Our goal is to put 42% of women in the lead by 2025 – today it is 25%. We are signatories to the Movement for Racial Equity and, within four years, we will have 45% of black people in management positions. We also want talent of different ages. We received 50-year-old trainees in the program we opened last year.

Now, we are going to implement the largest reverse logistics program in Brazil. More than 400 stores have already started to collect used appliances, which are sent to an appropriate disposal service. Retail has a big responsibility in the circular economy. I don’t care about a sofa floating in a flood.

Roberto Fulcherberguer, 50

Graduated in business administration from Unip (Universidade Paulista), with a postgraduate degree in marketing from Faap (Armando Álvares Penteado Foundation), and an MBA in retail from FEA-USP (Faculty of Economics, Administration and Accounting, University of São Paulo). He has been Via Varejo’s president since June 2019. He began his career as purchasing director at Lojas Arapuã in 1987. He joined Grupo Pão de Açúcar in 1998 and became commercial vice president at Via Varejo in 2003, becoming the company’s board member in 2013, before taking charge of the group.


Foundation – 1957, in São Caetano do Sul (SP)
Number of stores – 1.009
Employees – 46 thousand
Group companies – Casas Bahia, Ponto, Extra.com, Bartira (furniture factory), BanQi digital bank, Asap Log (logistics technology), I9XP (technology focused on e-commerce), Celer (fintech), Distrito (innovation platform that makes the connection with startups; Via is a partner)
Revenues* – BRL 34.5 billion
Profit* – BRL 1 billion
Mainly competitors – Magazine Luiza, Fast Shop, Mercado Livre, Americanas.com

*Data from 2020


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