December 26, 2015
In a brave new world where Google is developing driverless electric cars and virtual reality continues to replace video conferences, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos complains of being asked: "What's going to change in the next ten years?" The US tech billionaire, who is currently trialling drones for home delivery and who wants industry to be off-planeted into outer space so that Mother Earth can lick her wounds, says he would prefer the question: "What's not going to change in the next ten years?" His reasoning for finding the second question more important is as impeccable as it is counter-intuitive: "Because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time." Hopefully, the trade gurus who ponder the future here will also make us think outside the box.
December 17, 2015
John Allan: "We are working hard to find a way to stunt the growth of the German discounters or to slow it considerably" (photo: Mark Mackenzie)
John Allan is so polite and pleasant that one can hardly believe he is a retailer. He certainly differs in tone and style from numerous former denizens of the Tesco C-suite, including caustic ex-CEO Phil Clarke and Clarke's dour predecessor Terry Leahy. Presumably Allan's unassuming way is a throwback to his earlier days in logistics, a cut-throat industry, but one where managers even manage to talk appreciatively about their competitors. At any rate, John Allan needs every grocer's ounce of his innate tact and diplomacy in his current role as Chairman. In fact, it was hard to know when he left Dixons for troubled Tesco last year whether to congratulate the man on one of the most prestigious jobs in UK retailing, or to commiserate because it is also the hottest seat in the industry.
November 26, 2015
Oscar Farinetti: "We've come at exactly the right time to Germany" (photo: Eataly; Michele D'Ottavio/Pho-to.it)
The opening of Eataly's first German outlet in Munich this Thursday was a logical step for a fine food & gastronomy chain that deliberately appeals to the emotions and plays on its Italianness. After all, the Germans call Munich 'Italy's most northern city'. The new project in the Bavarian capital is the Turin-based company's 27th outlet worldwide. The concept sells authentic artisanal food in market halls and combines this offer with restaurants, food lecture rooms, and exhibition areas. The 4,600m² site at the Schrannenhalle (old corn exchange) in the heart of Munich is perfectly chosen as it lies adjacent to the historic Viktualienmarkt (farmers' market). But it took Eataly founder Oscar Farinetti two years to overcome German bureaucracy after signing contracts. So the man, who strives for a Renaissance in our eating habits against the utilitarian Zeitgeist of mass consumer markets, now confronts grim local retailers on their home turf with his first shrine to good food. Will they take up the gauntlet? Do they even understand the challenge?
November 12, 2015
Not a toy: This innocent-looking ground drone could replace the delivery van (photo: Starship)
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
Shouldn't President Obama ring to congratulate? (Jonas Wolff_Fotolia)
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, our newspaper 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
German proverb: "Food and drink keep body and soul together" (source: Franz Ferdinand Photography)
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. One 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. Wisely, however, the trade is generally not prepared to comment on how it will profit from an influx of young migrant labour and increased consumer spending, while leaving any future social problems to the tax payer.
September 2, 2015
Kaleidoscope Shopping Center in Moscow where SCG International was responsible for the brand, architecture, interiors, graphics, signage and marketing (photo: SCG)
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 they are ever built at all.
August 27, 2015
Luis Cantarell: "Let's make the cake bigger!" (photo: Nestlé)
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 probably 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
Glamorous advertising, scene 1: Aldi Men's Marl Zipped Hoody (photo: Aldi)
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
Retailer buying alliances in Europe (photo: Beugdesign/Fotolia; corporate sources; montage: LZ graphics)
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, some significant development has ignited change, such as the signing of the Single European Act in 1986. The most recent shuffling of 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 European buying arm Agenor have a stable future.