May 14, 2015

Majorca: sun, sangria, and Aldi

Aldi opens in Majorca (caricature: Oliver Sebel)
Colony in commotion: Who is the king of Majorca?
Feel like a cheap and cheerful break this summer in Majorca, but worried about the money when you're there? Want to drink bucketfuls of sangria with a straw to droning music and pass out under a palm tree without a thought as to what your hangover will cost you? Need to protect your lily-white northern skin from going lobster-red with a suntan lotion that even the mass tourist can afford? Or do you simply require a towel to claim territory on the beach? Don't despair because as from next week Aldi will be there! According to our generally impeccable sources, the secretive German discount giant intends to power away on the Mediterranean holiday island in order to catch up with arch-rival Lidl who has already opened 14 outlets. Aldi wants to kick off with six stores next Wednesday and have a further four up and running by the end of the year. Benvingut (Bienvenid) a Mallorca!
May 7, 2015

Brian Sharoff talks PLMA and retail brands

Brian Sharoff, CEO PLMA (photo: PLMA)
Brian Sharoff: "I have helped to direct the battle between A-brands and retailers"
Mr. Own Label, Brian Sharoff, is delightful company and hasn't lost either his wry New York humour or his puckish grin over the years. Sharoff's long tenure as President at the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) is a true American success story. Under his dynamic and entertaining leadership since 1981, membership has steadily grown from 200 companies to more than 3,500 today. Annual PLMA trade shows in Amsterdam (May) and Chicago (November) have long become a "must" for the retail and fmcg industry. In the run-up to this year's fair in Amsterdam on May 19 & 20, Lebensmittel Zeitung wanted to know how this man built the PLMA into the force it is today and why at a very indefatigable 68 he now sees the future in video streaming services?
May 7, 2015

Lidl changes US management

"Better late than never" (photo: Creative Soul - Fotolia)
Has Lidl furled or unfurled its sails for America?
In a surprising move, German discount giant Lidl has changed its US leadership within only leagues of colonising America. The top brass of Lidl International have just announced to staff in Virginia that senior execs Kenneth McGrath (39) and Kevin Proctor (42) are leaving the US subsidiary. The executive duo is succeeded by Ireland CEO Brendan Proctor (40). He will be assisted by Gareth Reed (33), a new member of the management board and previously responsible for expansion. Admittedly, American business culture is more hire & fire than here in "Old Europe", but one can only speculate why Lidl boss Sven Seidel and board member Patrick Kaudewitz made their decision. Has progress been too slow on preparing US entry? Or were there other reasons? Above all, will it delay entry to the States?
April 23, 2015

Accenture Interactive's new Innovation Center

Accenture Interactive R&D Director Alexandre Naressi talks to a robot (Accenture)
Cute conversation: R&D Director Alexandre Naressi chats with a robot
If you like conversing with robots and your watch, but hate driving behind the wheel or shopping in stores, then the future is just for you. This might be one conclusion drawn from a number of thought-provoking presentations given by Accenture managers at the opening of the IT & management consultancy's Innovation Center in Sophia Antipolis last week. Company experts are clearly convinced that the teething problems of new consumer technology such as wearables, driverless cars, the "internet of things", and delivery drones will soon be resolved. Talking robots are also about to enter call centres and shops in order to deal with customer enquiries. Welcome Brave New World?
April 9, 2015

Ornella Barra talks Walgreens Boots Alliance

Ornella Barra, EVP Walgreens Boots Alliance (photo: WBA)
Ornella Barra: "Employee relations are often overlooked after big merger deals"
Ornella Barra and Stefano Pessina go back a long way together, but they still ride in formidable tandem at what is now the world's largest pharmacy-lead health and beauty company. With over 12,800 drugstores in eleven countries and a mighty pharmaceutical wholesale & distribution network in eight more, there has to be considerable harmony of strategic thought at newly-merged Walgreens Boots Alliance. "I consider Stefano the architect within the company and myself as the engine," says Barra. "He is the visionary strategist and does the financial side. I prefer to create a common culture and nurture good relationships." As a female exec, Ornella Barra is quite a rarity in male-dominated boardrooms. But this cosmopolitan lady has not lost her femininity in the fight to the top and dresses with exquisite taste. Almost shy at press conferences, she unfolds her Italian charm and emotional intelligence to the full when talking one-to-one.
April 1, 2015

When will drones deliver our Easter eggs?

Drones deliver Easter Eggs (photo collage: Chesky/Shutterstock; senoldo/Fotolia)
All good things come from above
German kids have always had a rough deal over Easter. In the UK, kind relations bring huge chocolate eggs in glossy wrapping paper. But German children are expected to hunt for painted hard-boiled eggs in the garden. Admittedly, the April weather is not quite as bad as in Blighty, but it always looks more like a survival course for the young than an enjoyable ritual for the sweet-toothed. There may yet be hope for German boys and girls, however. In the foreseeable future, they will be able to order their own Paschal goodies on a smartphone and need only look to the sky for online manna to arrive. Drones could soon deliver all. If Amazon & Co. had their way, all this would be tomorrow. But, alas, dear children of the Federal Republic, you have a formidable adversary blocking your path: the US Federal Aviation Authority, known to its friends as the FAA.
March 20, 2015

Talk with Web 2.0 basher Andrew Keen

Andrew Keen (photo: Andrew Keen )
Andrew Keen: "The Internet and the monopolists who dominate it need regulation"
Is the Internet a common good or should it be? Andrew Keen sees our digital age as a very mixed blessing and has become one of its most vehement critics. The British entrepreneur and author maintains that online monopolies, such as Amazon, Google, YouTube or Uber, have created a dangerous dystopia. In his opinion they destroy jobs, stifle innovation, and exacerbate global inequality. Social media platforms also raise Mr Keen's ire as being anything but social and only seemingly free. He accuses these networks of destroying our privacy and ruthlessly marketing personal data: "Facebook is not interested in humanity, but primarily in profit." And, if Edward Snowden's revelations are to be believed, the providers of such platforms are not only commercialising but also surveilling users in collaboration with the NSA. Keen also claims that WhatsApp, Instagram & Co promote a trivial, narcissist culture and "the tyranny of the moment". Is then the Web an amoral force in desperate need of state regulation, or is the man merely exaggerating in order to sell his controversial books?
March 19, 2015

Aldi tests e-commerce

Screenshot of ALDI Liquor, Aldi's online delivery site in eastern Australia
ALDI Liquor: Online delivery site for wine, beer, and spirits in eastern Australia
This could be the game changer the market has long been waiting for. In a significant break with tradition, Aldi Süd (Aldi South) is taking a big step towards becoming an internet retailer. According to our sources, the German discount giant plans to trial an online shop in the United Kingdom and is looking to develop similar activities in a number of other countries, including Germany. Sister company Aldi Nord (Aldi North) is also believed to be considering a launch into Spanish and Portuguese cyberspace. Germany's most profitable discounter has been scrutinising the virtual world for more than a decade, but persons familiar with the group state that its interest has now entered a new and decisive phase.
March 16, 2015

Sex and the billboard

Sexist beer advertising (Deutscher Werberat)
Forbidden view: This beer ad was ruled to be discriminatory against women
Men are generally suckers for a pretty face. And it is highly amusing to see how sex appeal can open the purse strings of the most flint-hearted male penny-pincher. The advertising industry, essentially run by men and working for male-dominated clients, frequently cannot resist pandering to clichés and sexual stereotypes, especially when marketing to an essentially male audience. Sex sells, as they say in the trade. If a few airy-fairy sociologists worry about the commoditisation of human relationships or the over-sexualisation of our society, who cares? Thus, smokers are treated to pictures of steamy Latinas on hand-rolled tobacco pouches, or long-legged girlies drape themselves over sports cars at motor shows. Even some German milk products apparently can't be sold without touting a nubile blonde, dressed in a plunge bra and dirndl, waiting expectantly in the barn.
March 13, 2015

Fyffes Chairman David McCann talks fruit

Fyffes Chairman David McCann (photo: Ute Schmidt)
David McCann: "We are an initiator"
Last year was full of banana drama: Fyffes, the fourth-largest tropical fruit trader in the world, announced bold, cost-saving plans to merge with larger US rival Chiquita. The attempted mega-deal, which would have catapulted "ChiquitaFyffes" to no. 1 in the global fruit business, held the trade in suspense for much of 2014. Investors on the Irish Stock Exchange generally loved the idea, although some analysts were worried about the level of debt. After coming with an ace of clinching the deal, however, the proverbial luck of the Irish failed. Fyffes was outbid by Brazilian fruit juice giant Cutrale and investment group partner Safra. Wisely, the Dubliners had negotiated a termination fee and didn't slip on the proverbial banana skin. But could the McCann founder family soon find themselves faced with takeover interest from fruit giants Dole, Del Monte or Chiquita? Mild-mannered Chairman David McCann didn't look at all anxious at interview. Buoyed by good results from 2014, the 56-year-old Irishman sees a bright future for Fyffes Plc. Despite a strong dollar pushing up costs, he is clearly bullish on international growth, including Germany.