March 5, 2015

Aldi eyes start in Italy

Aldi crosses the Alps (source: Cartoonresource Fotolia)
Aldi follows in Hannibal's footsteps (source: Cartoonresource Fotolia)
Aldi trips off the Italian tongue so much more easily than Lidl that one would have thought them on the sunshine peninsula long before their arch-rival. In fact their fellow German discounter ventured across the Alps in 1992 and was joined two years later by Rewe Group subsidiary Penny Market. In the 1990's, "sources close to Aldi" revealed that Austrian subsidiary Hofer had indeed taken a long hard look at bella Italia. At the time, however, group head office in Mülheim was said to have been deterred by the complex building regulations governing the numerous centri storici (historical town centres) which delight the world's tourists. Nonetheless, the secretive retail giant confirmed exclusively to our newspaper this week that it is reviewing the dossier. Local bureaucracy has hardly simplified in the interim. So what has made Aldi change its mind about the Italian job?
February 6, 2015

BRF export managers talk big chicken

Chickens at BRF (photo: BRF)
Long road: São Paulo is 10,250 kilometers and three time zones away from Berlin (photo: BRF)
Mention the letters BRF to most Europeans, and they will look at you blankly. Say them to a Brazilian, and his or her face will light up with recognition. This is because they stand for what was formerly Brasil Foods, the country's largest food maker with something like the status in Latin America of a Nestlé or Unilever on our continent. In fact, this national champion is among the Top 30 global food companies by revenues and a leading producer of refrigerated and frozen protein foods. The agribusiness powerhouse is also the world's largest exporter of poultry and now sells meat products to more than 110 countries. Exports, fuelled by a weaker real, already account for around 45 per cent of annual revenues. But why do export managers Roberto Banfi, CEO Europe & Eurasia, and Christophe Vasseur, General Manager West & South Europe, want to boost business in a region that is both mature and saturated and where the EU has slapped import quotas and sanitary restrictions on Brazilian meat?
January 22, 2015

Mr Illy talks espresso and illycaffè

illycaffè Chairman & CEO Andrea Illy (photo: Stefan Nimmesgern)
Andrea Illy: "The massive consolidation in the global coffee segment doesn't worry us a bean" (photo: Stefan Nimmesgern)
Elegant and sophisticated, without palpable vanity; scrupulously polite, yet not stiff and formal; eloquent, but not glib – Andrea Illy has exactly the right blend to be the testimonial of the super-premium coffee brand he represents. The Chairman & CEO of illycaffè, a family company based in delightful Trieste, is a formidable marketer and exudes the quiet confidence of a man who knows his product is on the global up. Germans love their coffee with foamed, creamy milk; Americans like it black and weak; Italians prefer extra-strong espresso and ristretto; but one thing is for sure: the human race is becoming ever more addicted to the 'black gold'. The aspirational lifestyle trend associated with coffee is percolating through mature western markets to consumers in emerging economies with a growing thirst for their daily caffeine hit. Given that only one in five of the world's population drinks coffee, global sales could double within the next generation. Around two billion coffee capsules were sold in Germany alone last year, and a conservative estimate by the German Coffee Federation points to annual local growth of 10 to 20 per cent. Need one wonder why Andrea Illy is increasingly enjoying his visits to this country?
January 15, 2015

Standard & Poor's looks forward

Rating Agencies (photo: Nito/Fotolia)
Rating Agencies: Only good corporate boys and girls get a good report (photo: Nito/Fotolia)
Given the intense criticism the industry underwent in the wake of the global financial crisis, ratings agencies are disappointingly discreet. This may please corporate clients, but it is frustrating for journalists who make a living out of other people's indiscretions. When cornered, ratings analysts will politely refer to "regulatory requirements". Even loaded questions, such as "How can you rate Douglas now that it no longer publishes financial statements?" or "How would you rate Tesco if it sold its operations in Eastern Europe?", are skilfully fielded. The inscrutable answers will vary from "we meet our clients regularly" to "we aren't allowed to tell clients what they should do" or, most fatal of all, "on the one hand…on the other…". So what then are these guys good for? S&P publicly rates 46 retailers and restaurants across Europe, Russia and Africa. This puts them in pole position to review the state of the industry. A recent roadshow in Frankfurt reveals how they view the retail world and their weather forecast for the trade this year.
December 27, 2014

Trade pundits predict 2015 and beyond

Ausblick (photo: Heike_pixelio.de)
Through the glass, darkly: A guru scans the horizon in search of enlightenment (photo: Heike_pixelio.de)
The wonderful 19th century German humorist Wilhelm Busch once said: "First things happen differently and then differently from what one would have thought." The fact that nearly everything turns out otherwise than previously expected makes most people loath to second-guess the future. But on the positive side, the world belongs to those who can anticipate a trend. At least the experts making a prediction on these pages have the courage of their convictions, and we salute their bravery. The opinions of these intrepid sages are given below in alphabetical order of surname. International authorities from a broad range of trade-related fields were asked: "What do you see as the most exciting development in retailing/the fmcg industry and the most important challenge for the future?"
December 22, 2014

Sex and the supermarket

A woman's work is never done? (photo: HaywireMedia/fotolia)
Equal opportunities: A level playing field for working girls? (photo: HaywireMedia/fotolia)
It has taken light years to see the light, but perhaps Germany's macho retail management culture is about to open its testosterone-fuelled bastion to womankind. Seen in isolation, the nomination of Gabriele Wolff to the main Board of German discounter Schwarz Group as from March 1 next year could be interpreted as a well-deserved promotion for a female exec on a steep career path. After all, Wolff (57) has been at the helm of hypermarket subsidiary Kaufland for many years and a key driver behind its formidable success story. But Ms Wolff is the first woman to enter the power centre of what has long been an exclusively male club. It might also be pure coincidence that only a few days ago Gwynn Burr (51), a former executive manager at UK grocer Sainsbury's, succeeded Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe on the Supervisory Board of Metro Group. Had both ladies been men, this would have been standard procedure. But former Tesco board member Neville-Rolfe's brief guest appearance as a woman in the top echelon of a major German retailer was about as normal an occurrence as a shooting star.
December 18, 2014

Bar talk with Diageo Europe CEO John Kennedy

Diageo President Europe John Kennedy (photo: Mascha Andrea Pohl)
John Kennedy: "The global growth prospects for our company are very promising" (photo: Mascha Andrea Pohl)
As John Kennedy, President Europe of global spirits giant Diageo, starts to pack his bags for a Christmas skiing holiday in St. Anton, he fully intends to celebrate with a glass or two of Cîroc vodka. Any hard-working exec may have a festive drink with family and friends. But, given the sober challenges posed within his specific liquor fief, you might have expected this one to be drowning his sorrows rather than chinking glasses. After all, the man has quite a cocktail to mix. Southern Europe, where the UK distiller's sales have been declining for five years, still suffers from a bad hangover after the financial crisis binge. Even in Western Europe Kennedy faces a conundrum familiar to many other global brand managers: How to rekindle growth on mature markets? And the addition of Uncle Vlad's Russia to his already huge responsibilities this summer might be interpreted as a very mixed blessing. So why does the 49-year-old Irish-American, who shares both a name and a New England accent with the former US president, see his glass as half full and not half empty?
December 11, 2014

Chat with Facebook

Facebook execs Jin Choi & Erin Hunter (photo: Thomas Rohnke)
The condemned live longer: Facebook execs Choi and Hunter look fit and healthy (photo: Thomas Rohnke)
It's not every day that you have guests from California, when one works in Frankfurt. They certainly don't come for the sun, the laid-back people or the slow, courteous drivers. And somehow the River Main does not compare with the Big Sur. When these long-haul travellers are from Facebook, one is a little puzzled. What could Erin Hunter and Jin Choi, with the zippy job titles Global Head FMCG & CPG Strategy viz. Industry Leader FMCG & Retail D-A-CH, possibly want from a German B2B newspaper? The purpose of their visit could hardly be to make the social media giant better known. After all, its 1.3bn active users continue to network relentlessly and to inform their online "friends" across the planet about their favourite pop star or sausage. At any rate, the talk with the slick delegation from Silicon Valley got off to a good start. Our sister rag "Horizont" had just interviewed Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts. His controversial statement, "Facebook won't exist in three years' time", was blazoned for all to see on the big electronic screen in the entrance hall of our publishing company.
December 4, 2014

Talk with Coles legend Ian McLeod

Ian McLeod, Coles/Wesfarmers (photo: Frank Nürnberger)
Stairway to heaven: Former Coles boss, Ian McLeod, is now Group Commercial Director at holding company Wesfarmers (photo: Frank Nürnberger)
Strewth, blimey cobber! An offer to interview an Ozzie retailer in the middle of Germany is about as unlikely as meeting a kangaroo or a dingo on the way to our editorial offices in Frankfurt. But like many surprises from the Lucky Country, this one had a logical reason and a seam of gold. Ian McLeod, Group Commercial Director of Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers Group, was speaking at this year's German Retail Congress in Berlin. Evidently McLeod thought that after a meeting with chancellor Angela Merkel etc., he would do well to curry favour with the local gentry and talk with our newspaper. We didn't need to be asked twice. During McLeod's six-year tenure as MD of Wesfarmers supermarket subsidiary Coles until this July, earnings more than doubled. With some help from Boston Consulting Group, he masterminded a major turnaround at Australia's second-largest retailer, despite fierce competition from the likes of Woolworths, Aldi and Costco. McLeod spent most of his earlier career with Asda where he was a member of the Management Board and of the Executive Board at Walmart Germany. This, then, is a man with a tale to tell.
November 20, 2014

RetailUpdate: Global news for the trade

RetailUpdate: Laptop u. Smartphone (photo: Annette Böhm)
While you were sleeping: RetailUpdate reveals what the global trade has been up to over the last 24 hours (photo: Annette Böhm)
Loyal followers of German Retail Blog can't say we never try to surprise. On Tuesday we mailed you the first edition of RetailUpdate, our new English newsletter, just to see if you are on your toes and wide awake. As the name suggests, this free information product will update subscribers on the latest international retail news, while also covering the consumer goods industry. The service will be provided weekdays between approximately 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Central European Time. The newsletter is essentially compiled by our international staff in New Zealand while most of Europe is asleep. The result of these efforts Down Under is a global news review for the first coffee in the office or for those sensible people who prefer breakfast in bed.