March 7, 2014
Stumbling on the steppe: Metro C&C in Russia
The crisis in the Crimea and the sharp decline of the rouble appear to have placed a big question mark in the minds of investors over the London IPO of Metro Group's Russian Cash & Carry business. If you pursue profit in a foreign country with a repressive regime, one shouldn't be too surprised if international politics suddenly foil your best-laid plans. But, if your company urgently needs to reduce indebtedness and to raise money for the improvement of operations, then it is perhaps ill-advised to make any project in Russia a part of your turnaround strategy. Such, however, would seem to be the current situation of Metro Group in the dark empire of Vladimir Putin.
March 4, 2014
Upping the ante for food online delivery: Rewe CEO Alain Caparros
Only days ago, Germany’s largest newspaper claimed that Amazon.com intends to launch a food delivery service here as from September. Adding fuel to the fire, our own leader reports that Rewe CEO Alain Caparros is looking for around 200 staff to man a new e-commerce project. Lebensmittel Zeitung also claims to have knowledge of an internal company document dating back to the beginning of this year in which Caparros warns that the US online giant could soon be starting in this country. With his usual rhetorical flair, the eloquent French manager is also believed to have implored Rewe’s independents to embrace the internet or read their name on a tombstone.
January 31, 2014
The real thing: Lidl has quickly relisted Coke
Now that didn’t take long, did it? Only last week Lebensmittel Zeitung reported that Lidl had delisted Coca-Cola. Now the world knows that Germany’s no. 2 hard discounter by sales will be selling “Coca Cola Classic” again in all its 3,300 local stores as from March. The two giants still haven’t completely composed their current differences, however, as the fate of Coke’s other brands (Fanta, Sprite, Coca Cola Light and Zero) still has to be resolved. The decision to take on an iconic US brand in a World Cup year when the retailer is on the verge of entering the States always looked odd. Given that even arch-rival Aldi felt obliged to list Coke last year, it seemed stranger still. Now that Coke has been relisted, the whole affair looks like a skirmish in a larger power play that mighty Lidl has lost.
December 26, 2013
A matter of perspective
Another year older and hopefully wiser! 2013 is now history and a known quantity, but what does the future hold in store for us all? Given mankind's limitless imagination and capacity to innovate, nothing is so certain as change. At least if Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos has his way, we won't need to go to the shops anymore: Everything will be delivered to our doorstep from the sky by "octocopter" drones. Every twelve months we ask trade gurus from around the world for their take on the future and the shape of things to come. Pundits from online start-up operations to corporate finance experts were invited to answer the question: “What do you see as the most exciting development in retailing or the fmcg industry and the most important challenge for the future?”
December 19, 2013
Fabio De'Longhi: "All manufacturers would love to be monopolists!"
Increasing global addiction to coffee makes it a booming segment regardless of recession. Therefore, there are worse things you can be today than the world’s largest maker of automatic coffee machines. The headquarters of De'Longhi are in an equally favorable situation and lie in tranquil Treviso in the prosperous Italian region of Veneto. On the 30km ride from Venice airport the visitor has a first inkling of what to expect. All the houses, gardens and roads are in pristine condition and redound with efficiency, as if to confirm the frequent comparison between Veneto and Swabia. By way of introduction Nicola Serafin, “Comfort, Floor Care & Kitchen Platform Director”, guides company guests with evident pride through the local production facility that turns out 5,000 coffee machines a day. This is all a prelude to meeting CEO and Vice-Chairman Fabio De'Longhi (45), one of Italy's richest men.
November 28, 2013
Rainmaking Loft co-founder Oli Johnson: "This project wouldn't have been possible without a sponsor like Tesco"
Was one ever so young and clever? And why must most office life be so hierarchical and boring? These are the type of questions your average Joe starts asking himself after a visit to the “Rainmaking Loft”, spectacularly located on London’s River Thames between Tower Bridge and St. Katherine Docks. Behind this not-for-profit facility with a name like a Kate Bush song is a new technology entrepreneur incubator and behind that as main sponsor -- who would have guessed it? -- Tesco. The unorthodox project is best described in the words of Finnish co-founder Mats Stigzelius: “Rainmaking Loft is a 10,000ft² co-working space, focussed on fast-growth start-ups. The aim is to provide a fostering and collaborative environment where they can concentrate on building great companies and help each other along the way.” The floor area has permanent seating and desk space for up to 180 people (across 40 to 50 start-ups), lots of meeting rooms and Skype pods, informal hangout areas, and an events venue for 150 people (seated/200 standing). There is even a tent to sleep in.
November 22, 2013
Rob Paterson: "Charity is good for retailers"
You don’t have to be Gordon Gekko to notice that our economic system is based on limitless greed. Its strength (cf. the demise of communism) is based on the fundamental acquisitiveness of human nature, whatever the moralists would want us to believe to the contrary. In the 60s mass consumers were only too pleased to enrich themselves after the deprivations of post-war rationing. And it was easy for the rednecks to truncheon a few hippies on the head for criticising our increasingly materialistic way of life. Since then, however, environmental pollution, global warming, and waning social cohesion have cast doubts on whether we are pursuing a sustainable course.
November 6, 2013
Karl-Erivan Haub: "Retailers are increasingly becoming tech companies"
On the one hand, Tengelmann CEO Karl-Erivan Haub is virtually omnipresent when it comes to online retailing and risks grazing the fine, but dangerous line between professional self-marketing and overkill. On the other, there are few top retail managers in Germany with his knowledge and experience of both bricks & clicks. Certainly, the organisers of this year's Neocom mail order congress in Dusseldorf came to the conclusion that this is a speaker no trade audience can do without. With bricks & mortar sales in virtual stagnation and online revenues forging ahead at double-digit rates, perhaps it was worth stating the obvious: "E-commerce and the internet are not going to go away...and there is no alternative." As Haub points out, online customers can buy whenever and wherever they want and choose from larger assortments with greater price transparency. But the CEO, who runs Germany's seventh largest retailer with annual revenues of around €7.4bn, doesn't see an end to classic retailing.
November 1, 2013
Mark Post with his lab-cultured beef burger: Could it help solve the coming food crisis and combat climate change?
For some this Dutch scientist is the creator of "the Frankenburger". Others believe that he has achieved a potential breakthrough in the fight against world hunger, environmental pollution and animal cruelty. Certainly the research conducted by Professor Post on laboratory-grown meat is not for the squeamish. And food grown in a Petri dish from stem cells extracted from the muscle tissue of a dead cow doesn't sound particularly appetising. Yet one must give the 56-year-old Chair of Physiology at Maastricht University full marks for marketing. The launch of his lab-meat burger at a press conference in London on August 5 was a huge PR coup and has caught the imagination of the media. The cultured muscle tissue, coloured by beetroot and doused with breadcrumbs, caramel and saffron, was fried by Richard McGeown, head chef at Couch's Great House Restaurant in Cornwall, before an astonished audience.
November 1, 2013
Linda Eatherton: "Companies should realise that there is a time to sell and time to tell"
Market research companies have created all manner of new consumer archetypes over the years as they try to help their clients understand, segment and profit from the customer. Thus we journalists are often treated to detailed studies aimed at proving the existence of "the mobile consumer", "the grazer", "the multi-screen generation" or "the Millennials” etc. Needless to say, these are not always equally convincing so that it is essential to separate the chalk from the cheese. Certainly one of the most impressive presentations we have had in our editorial offices recently was by Ketchum Pleon. So we asked Chicago-based Linda W. Eatherton, Partner, Director Global Food & Nutrition Practice, why the company has announced to the world the existence of the "food e-vangelist"? Ketchum’s “Research Food 2020” project is based on interviews with 1,800 middle-income primary shoppers in six countries (Argentina, China, Germany, Italy, UK, and US) and comes to some challenging conclusions.