November 12, 2015

Drones & robots set to deliver online customers

Yamaha drone motorbike (photo: Getty images)
Yamaha's drone motorcyclist: Will it be delivering online orders to our doorsteps?
Women may find the male fetish for technology generally tedious, but perhaps they should give a guy, who sends them flowers by drone, at least a few marks for trying. Florian Sieg, CEO of Germany's largest flower delivery service Blume 2000, intends to make this possible for his fellow men as early as next year. Thanks to a collaboration with Skycart, the California-based drone shipping service, they will soon be able to fly flowers to girlfriends on St. Valentine's Day and to Mums on Mother's Day. Blume 2000 wanted to provide a live demonstration for interested companies in Hamburg on Tuesday at its "Drone Delivery Event". Somewhat embarrassingly, the Ministry of Transport refused to authorise the flight due to strong winds. Was this, one wonders, a bad omen or merely the teething problem of an eaglet? For all those afraid of having something dropped on their head Skype founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis have invented a self-driving robot that can deliver groceries to the home, while Yamaha has just unveiled a robot motorcyclist that could also be used by retailers. Clearly the local online delivery market is in for a big shakeup.
October 29, 2015

Happy 100th birthday, the supermarket!

The supermarket format celebrates its 100th birthday (Jonas Wolff_Fotolia)
Shouldn't President Obama ring to congratulate?
Journalists always love a good anniversary as it gives them a peg on which to hang their coat. This need for a comfort zone can sometimes strain readers because it is not necessarily their innermost desire to celebrate the 175th year of Fred Bloggs' demise or the creation of the fountain pen. But surely the 100th birthday of the first ever supermarket in the US is as good an occasion as any for a retail trade newspaper to publish a special feature? The revolutionary self-service concept that opened its doors at a Piggly Wiggly Store in Memphis/Tenneesee in 1915 is certainly now in the mature part of its life cycle, but it has proved to be much more resilient than its critics ever believed possible. The inevitable demise of the supermarket has so often been proclaimed so eloquently that one could seriously wonder that it is still here at all. In fact it has not only survived the advent of the hypermarket, the convenience store, and the discounter, but our adaptable centenarian also seems to be enjoying somewhat of a Renaissance in the age of online home delivery. To celebrate in due style, Lebensmittel Zeitung devoted a special feature this week to this surprisingly resilient store format. We also had a bit of fun asking trade experts and consumers from around the world to tell us about their favourite supermarket and to take a selfie at the store concerned.
September 23, 2015

EU migrants – a plus for European retailers

EU migrants welcomed in Frankfurt (source: Franz Ferdinand Photography)
German proverb: "Food and drink keep body and soul together"
As the migrant tragedy unfolds and the EU struggles to cope, many European retailers & fmcg manufacturers have joined charities and private individuals in rendering humanitarian aid. Merely one positive example would be Rewe Group, Germany's second-largest retailer by sales. The Cologne-based company states, among a raft of other measures, that it is donating €500,000; providing 11,000 coats, 2,000 warm trousers and 10,000 blankets; as well as organising trainee jobs specifically for young refugees. Understandably and wisely, however, the trade is generally not prepared to comment on the potential benefits arising from an influx of young migrant labour and increased consumer spending. Neutral experts, however, clearly believe this to be the case.
September 2, 2015

Clive Woodger on making a destination brand

Kaleidoscope Shopping Center in Moscow (photo: SCG)
Kaleidoscope Shopping Center in Moscow where SCG International was responsible for the brand, architecture, interiors, graphics, signage and marketing
Clive Woodger, chairman of SCG International strategic consulting group, is probably best described as an international retail architect and branding consultant. Over the last decade, he has been particularly active in Moscow, where his global team has completed numerous retail and shopping centre projects. Woodger's business philosophy is as simple to formulate as it is difficult to implement in practice. He argues that any complex retail entity, such as a shopping centre, will only become a destination brand if there is a central, overarching brand message and engaging customer experience. It is therefore necessary to harmonise all aspects of branding, the brand name, identity, marketing platform and communication. This includes exterior/interior signage, wayfinding and ambient graphics, together with the design of all public and circulation areas ‒ reception, lift lobbies, corridors, staircases, cafeterias, landscaping and car parks. This sounds perfectly logical, but there are so many vested and often contrary interests involved in the financing, planning and building of big retail projects such as shopping centres that it is a wonder that they are ever built at all.
August 27, 2015

Nestlé manager Luis Cantarell talks food

Luis Cantarell, Executive VP Nestlé, Head of Zone EMENA (photo: Nestlé)
Luis Cantarell: "Let's make the cake bigger!"
Executive Vice President Luis Cantarell is a veteran of nearly 40 years at Nestlé. This pleasant and entertaining 63-year-old Spanish manager is an old hand in a new role since his appointment as Head of Zone EMENA (Europe, Middle East & North Africa) in October 2014. This follows a long management career that has included stints at the Swiss food giant's Nutrition and Health Science as well as Coffee & Beverages units. Men are always the sum of the things they have met, but Cantarell would proably be the first to agree that his three years as head of Nestlé's "Zone Americas" from 2008 to 2011 were particularly formative. The polyglot executive has now returned to Old Europe, but remains impressed by the optimistic "can-do" attitude he encountered in American business circles. And a man who can make informed comparisons on a global scale is inevitably a man with attitude. Cantarell also has something to say about saturated markets, international retailer alliances, and Wagner pizza at Aldi.
August 20, 2015

Aldi for fashionistas

Aldi Men's Marl Zipped Hoody (photo: Aldi)
Glamorous advertising, scene 1: Aldi Men's Marl Zipped Hoody
Aldi Stores Ltd is getting hipper by the month. This summer's range of menswear fashion wouldn't be new to Germany, but it is a first in the UK. As such, it has caught the imagination of the local media, including that bastion of the British middle-class, the Daily Mail. In addition to buying food staples at the German discount giant, male shoppers can now trendy themselves up with stunningly priced Chino shorts, Oxford shirts, linen trousers, T-shirts, casual padded sandals, summer hats, and zipped hoodies. The rock-bottom prices certainly make competitors such as Marks & Spencer or next look decidedly uncool. The range went in store on 19th July and was only available while stocks lasted. The tremendous success of this "Specialbuy" is shown by the way our mystery shoppers couldn't find one item in the English stores they visited at the beginning of last week. But they also confirmed how the Aldi system tolerates clothing to be merchandised as the day progresses. Any shorts were only in bargain bins, and the display of its popular "Back to School" uniform range looked pretty lacklustre. So is Aldi winning new customers with its special fashion offers only to turn them off and away once they get there?
August 13, 2015

Edeka CEO Markus Mosa talks Alidis

Edeka CEO Markus Mosa (photo: LZ-Bildarchiv)
Markus Mosa: "Alidis is now the biggest alliance in European food retailing"
Around once a decade, retailers seem to become nervous and start joining or changing European buying groups – much like the spasmodic migrations of birds. Usually, this can be attributed to some development that has ignited change, such as the signing of the Single European Act in 1986. The most recent shuffling of the cards, however, doesn't seem to have any such obvious reason. In fact, retail partners have been so frequently jumping in and out of bed with each other of late that one would call them promiscuous had one's maiden aunt not also been a reader of these columns. What is one to conclude from these increasingly frequent changes in membership? Although the good old fun of bullying suppliers for ever more advantageous terms & conditions may unite retailers for a while, it would seem that they often can't stand life together for any lengthy period. But Markus Mosa, CEO of Germany's largest retailer Edeka, is confident that Alidis and its buying arm Agenor have a stable future. Edeka joined the alliance in 2005 which has now been considerably strengthened by the accession of former Rewe partners Colruyt (B), Conad (I) and Coop Schweiz (CH). Together with Eroski (E) and Intermarché (F), Alidis members will combine whopping annual revenues of €140bn in eight countries. Is now Rewe Group CEO Alain Caparros hopping mad about losing three former allies to archrival Edeka, or delighted to be free of the ballast and the nitpicking coordination?
August 7, 2015

Neela Montgomery on multi-channel at Otto

Neela Montgomery, Member of the Executive Board, Multichannel (photo: Otto Group)
Neela Montgomery: "Some of my businesses need corrective action, and you don't do turnarounds at a slow pace"
As a woman, Neela Montgomery, executive board member at Hamburg-based Otto Group, is regrettably still quite a rarity in German retail c-suites. But any gender talk obfuscates her commanding credentials for her important new task: the restructuring of Otto Group's most important business division, Multichannel Retail. A glance at her CV suffices. Montgomery is a veteran of world-leading and has worked for the UK grocer in a variety of senior management roles in a number of countries, including Malaysia. As such, the lady is a good fit at Otto Group whose 123 companies are active in more than 20 countries. Montgomery's new fief embraces group companies in Germany and abroad that sell their goods through catalogues, e-commerce, and in over-the-counter retail. The range includes fashion, footwear, lifestyle accessories, furniture, interior décor items, and toys, as well as technology, sport and leisure products. So what can the new girl on the block bring to the game?
August 6, 2015

Vodka talk with Russian Standard

Grant Winterton, Global CEO, Russian Standard
Grant Winterton: "We regard Germany, France and the UK as emerging markets"
If your company name is Russian Standard and you make vodka in St. Petersburg, then you are unlikely to have authenticity problems with local or global consumers. So it almost seems superfluous for the corporate website to market the Russianness of its premium brands. There we learn that its winter wheat comes from the Steppes; its quartz (used for filtration purposes) is taken from the Ural Mountains; and its spirits are blended with water from Lake Ladoga. Doubtless Global CEO Grant Winterton (45) would have preferred to have only discussed brand leadership in Mother Russia and the conquest of foreign bars and drinks tables. But even an Australian manager must accept that a business so quintessentially Russian cannot divorce itself entirely from manspreading Uncle Vlad and current West-East relations. This is a pity because the brand founded in 1998 by Roustam Tariko, the billionaire owner and chairman of Russian Standard Company, has a Soviet-free identity. It also represents one of the big success stories to emerge from the vibrant market of 1990s Russia with a 40 per cent share of the local premium vodka market.
July 29, 2015

Digimarc will make your barcode disappear

Digimarc's new invisible barcode technology (photo: Digimarc/Stuart Mullenberg
Goodbye barcodes as we know them: The POS of the future
Roll up, roll up for a wonderful piece of retail magic – Digimarc will now make your bar codes disappear. What sounds like part of a David Copperfield show is apparently not magic at all. The Beaverton/Oregon-based company has come up with a way to make barcodes invisible and thus revolutionise what was once itself a revolutionary technology when the UPC was introduced 50 years ago. According to Digimarc partner and imager maker Datalogic, the new digital watermarking process could speed up scanning time by a least a third and therefore the whole checkout process at your local store. The innovation is currently being tested by Walmart in its innovation Lab 415-C and has been praised by CEO Doug McMillon, which in the retail world is akin to being knighted by the Queen. Wegmans already prints the digital watermarks on its own label products. "The technology allows scanners to immediately read from as many as 200 invisible barcodes all over, for instance, a box of cereal," says Digimarc boss Bruce Davis. This represents a great improvement on the conventional method of one barcode per package for 10m items world-wide. Davis is bullish about his new technology and also believes that checkouts could be eliminated entirely when shopping trolleys are equipped with scanners. This in turn could equate to substantial annual labour cost savings for the retailer. Sounds like a good ROI?