July 3, 2015

Run on Lidl stores in Greek financial crisis

Lidl store in Greece (photo: LZ-Archiv)
Last resort for Greek consumers: While politicians and corrupt elites squabble, unpretentious Lidl offers the people a square deal
As smirking Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis plays Easy Rider on his motorbike and Merkel, Schäuble, Lagarde and Juncker look grimmer by the hour for the camera, the Greek tragedy unfolds apace. Nemesis here takes the ugly form of more than €340bn in unsustainable debt. Regardless of the outcome of the national referendum on the international bailout this Sunday, there is no doubt as to the protagonist: the Greek people. Forced to choose between the bitter cups of chaos or further decades of grim austerity, like the tragic hero of old, they seem damned whichever way they turn. It is an ill wind indeed, however, that blows nobody any good. The tormented country may be grinding to a standstill, but the 220 discount stores of Lidl Hellas continue to do a rip-roaring trade. So it must come as an irony for those Greeks who see the German financial machine as their oppressors that it is a German retailer who gives them the best bargain on the High Street.
June 25, 2015

3rd Global DIY Summit in London

Véronique Laury, CEO Kingfisher (photo: Thomas Goetz/EDRA)
Kingfisher CEO Véronique Laury: "Do It Yourself costs less"
DIY is dead, long live DIY! This could well have been the motto for this year's Global DIY Summit in London, organised by international trade organisations EDRA and fediyma. The two-day get-together of the great and the good in the industry provided an authoritative statement on the current state of repair in the global home improvement sector. Some of the daunting challenges facing the trade were revealed at the very start of the show via an electronic questionnaire. One in three suppliers and one in five retailers believe that the growth of online home delivery could force 70 to 80 per cent of all physical store space to close by 2025. A surprisingly high number of attendees also estimate that robots could replace 10 to 20 per cent of all shop staff by then. Meanwhile, younger consumers are becoming less interested and capable in DIY, which favours the "Do-It-For-Me" segment. This is good news for professionals and their wholesale customers, but it means that fewer tills will ring at the DIY store. Here even Sergio Giroldi, CEO of German market leader Obi, admits: "Big box stores are too far away from today's customers." So why were the speakers so bullish?
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.