On 12th July 2000 in Milan, thanks to the initiative of Maurizio Gattiglia, Marcello Poli and Antonio Tirelli, a food distribution group with a strong relationship with the territory was born: Agorà Network. It was born as a limited liability company. The goal of the founders was to establish a long-lasting alliance between family businesses with the same values and quality. A partnership that would contribute, thanks to the exchange of business experiences and the pooling of core activities, to the further quantitative and qualitative growth of the three regional small/medium enterprises they lead: SoGeGross, Supermercati Poli, and Iperal. In the small office in Viale Ferdinando di Savoia, the buyers of the three companies immediately established relationships that extended far beyond the purchase, by relying on some shared operating marketing activities, such as the analysis and management of the assortments of the sales networks and joint promotions and by structuring a transparent exchange of information and experience at all levels of the company, which proved to be the propeller of their future development. Prof. Ravazzoni titled one of his articles on the specialised magazine Mark-Up: “Agorà Network suggests a new way of being on the market. A Federative association is born”. He was not wrong. The quality of the allied companies, evidenced by the high market shares in their respective geographic areas of influence, has allowed Agorà Network to join ESD Italia Group Purchasing Organisation the following year, with Esselunga and Selex Gruppo Commerciale. In 2002, the well-known determination of the Orrigoni family to focus its business in the retail sector led the Tigros company to join the alliance. The experience of those early years, the extent of the benefits achieved and the realistic evaluation of some difficulties in managing a participatory project, helped the entrepreneurs to understand that in order to fill the dimensional gap that divided their businesses from top national players, they had to go further, dare to pool the entire commercial and logistical phase for the grocery products. Hence the centralization project for grocery purchases was born in 2006 and implemented by successive steps in 2007. The project made in favor of the sales network established by the hypermarkets, supermarkets and affiliate stores of all four companies. In 2011 the same centralization started also for the cold foods. From a corporate point of view, the model has required the transformation of the legal form of Agorà Network into a consortium and the partners have had to supply adequate financial resources. From an organisational point of view, it needed to search for new headquarters (now in via Pergolesi n. 25) capable of hosting a streamlined sales team, made up of trained and motivated people (buyers, purchasing agents, marketing analysts), a strong and well-structured management control, and support administrative offices. These functions are now performed by over 40 employees.
Substantial investments have been allocated to the implementation of information systems and interaction tools between the Milan headquarters, the logistics site and the offices of the four members. A unique project in the sector and precisely for this reason, at its presentation welcomed by some with suspicion and perhaps incredulity, which instead has been completed and has allowed the realization of important supply chain economies, but also of effectiveness. The extended catalogue of the 18,700 products handled on the logistics site has in fact allowed those companies organized to manage only medium / small sales formats to plan with relative ease, and always relying on the expertise of their colleagues, to successfully develop shops of much more large dimensions. The determination in the development of the centralisation project for grocery caused some misunderstandings with the other members of ESD Italia, so they left the Purchasing Organisation and began a new three-year alliance with Carrefour; at the end of this experience, Agorà Network was asked to be part again of an ESD Italia different from the one it had left, given that in the meantime Esselunga had left it. Since 2010, the partners of ESD, that is in addition to the historical Selex Gruppo Commerciale and Acqua & Sapone, SUN and, since 2015, Aspiag Service, are perhaps more homogeneous companies than in the past. The growth recorded in the first 20 years of Agorà Network and the companies allied was remarkable, having more than tripled their share in the domestic market. This growth was not only fostered by a major development of quality, but also by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of its sales network (Like4Like). In a competitive context in which the productivity of stores has decreased by over 10%, Agorà Network shops have instead constantly marked growing turnovers, with winning performances (in the top three of the about twenty Groups surveyed). In 2021 Agorà Network expands its social base and the Iperal, Poli, SoGeGross and Tigros groups are joined by a fifth partner, Rossetto Trade, another company of proven quality and complementary, which has 25 points of sale, including supermarkets and hypermarkets located in Veneto, Lombardy and Emilia Romagna thus extending the territorial distribution of Agorà Network to all regions of Northern Italy; in a first phase, a particular status is envisaged for the new shareholder, which for the time being allows him to adhere to the framework agreements and the development of Agorà’s brands.