September 9, 2020

Whisky talk with William Grant & Sons

Rita Greenwood at William Grant (photo: William Grant)
William Grant
Rita Greenwood: "Staying home with friends is becoming the new going-out"
Wid ye lik' a wee dram afore ye gang? In the last part of our UK summer tour, our newspaper spoke per video conference with Rita Greenwood, Regional President Europe, Middle East & Africa, at venerable Scots spirits maker William Grant & Sons. Their 'blether' ranged from drinking whisky in the time of Corona to the Sassenachs taking Brexit with their tea just south of the border. With consummate diplomacy, the lady even managed to skirt carefully around the thistly question of Scotch independence. With revenues of €1.4bn in 2018, William Grant is still quite a small laddie when compared with global Goliaths Diageo (€13.3bn) or Pernod Ricard (€9bn). But like David, the company packs something powerful in its sling: Glenfiddich, the world's largest single malt whisky brand by annual sales... Talking of tipple, we have interviewed a conspicuously large number of whisk(e)y makers over the years, including Diageo and Beam, Inc. Readers may praise the assiduity but what must they think of our sobriety?
September 3, 2020

Talk with retail trend scout Matthew Brown

Matthew Brown, owner and MD of Echochamber Ltd. (photo: James Mackenzie)
(photo: James Mackenzie)
Trend scout Matthew Brown: "Retailers should worry more"
In the fourth part of our annual summer tour, our newspaper spoke per video conference with retail futurist Matthew Brown about the most important trends in UK and international retailing. Brown is owner and MD of London-based Echochamber, an independent trend intelligence consultancy with a global client list. This professional globetrotter normally tours the world around twenty times a year searching for new store concepts, ideas and best practices. So who better than him to go on a retail safari with?

 But we are still living in the time of coronavirus. Thus all mental travellers with a penchant for retailing must accompany us on the interviewer's equivalent of an augmented reality trip...
August 30, 2020

New in English: FOOD SERVICE International

FOOD SERVICE International (credit: FoodService)
FOOD SERVICE International "It's a great source of information for all things foodservice!"
May we draw your attention to the English version of one of our most influential and authoritative sister publications? FOOD SERVICE International provides global news for the HoReCa sector, which is intimately linked with retailing and the fmcg industry. For decades shopping centres, hypermarkets and department stores have profited from the customer frequency created by such illustrious names as McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut or Taco Bell. Attempts by retailers to go it alone have come to one conclusion: Gastronomy has to be done extraordinarily well with the flair of an Eataly if it is to create enough pull. Executed poorly or even only half-heartedly, the whole thing backfires. Top brands have also not been able to resist the sheer marketing power of food service concepts. Examples range from PepsiCo's former massive flirtation with fast food to Dr. Oetker, who intends to launch a first 'Pudu-Pudu' pudding shop in Venice Beach/California. Interested in this vibrant business segment which has been challenged as never before in the time of corona? Then check out FOOD SERVICE International, it's just a click away...
August 27, 2020

US online food retailers make a breakthrough

A Walmart self-driving delivery vehicle (photo: Walmart)
Walmart: The world's largest retailer is experimenting relentlessly with technology in order to find the Holy Grail of online retailing – a profitable food delivery business
When it comes to buying food online, America has long been a slow starter. Other economically advanced countries such as Korea and the UK have far higher penetration levels. This is puzzling when one considers that the US is home to Silicon Valley, Amazon, Instacart and God knows who else. The old argument that there is an awful lot of chimney pots in Seoul and London won't rub. There are also quite a few in NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago etc., if one cares to count them. This year, however, and despite what Citizen Trump may say to the contrary, the coronavirus has hit the land of the free harder in terms of total infections and deaths than anywhere else on the planet. In most countries, home office, furlough and short-time work have created a sudden spike in demand for door-to-door delivery or click & collect in the stores. In the States e-commerce sales have positively exploded. So, is this a watershed moment for the US online grocery industry? We asked Bill Bishop, 'chief architect' at Brick Meets Click; retail industry consultant Michael Sansolo; and Jon Springer, executive editor at Winsight Grocery Business, for some enlightenment as to the new American normal…
August 27, 2020

Production almost back to pre-Covid levels

Supplier collage (photos: Studio Dagdagaz/Stock; Barilla; Paul Talbot; screenshot Carrefour)
Studio Dagdagaz/Stock; Barilla; Paul Talbot; screenshot Carrefour
Volume over variety: Was the motto for some food and fmcg suppliers during the height of the coronavirus crisis
Martial comparisons are generally best avoided. But, as in wartime, the coronavirus has brought out the best and the worst in people. We have had to endure black marketers selling protective masks and even basic foodstuffs at exorbitant prices, unprovoked attacks on vulnerable shop staff, and disinformation from the White House. Yet the crisis has also brought forth many unsung heroes. Selfless hospital staff serve their fellowman to the point of exhaustion. Others have volunteered to be human guinea-pigs in the search for a vaccine. Simple, hard-working people with their own families to care for have still found the time to shop for the old. Meanwhile the young are generally as feckless as they have ever been since time immemorial. They persist in 'hanging out' unmasked at super-spreader events. Marketers and sociologists have long tried to define them with such terms as Generation Y, Generation Z or The Millennials. Perhaps we should simply call them the Covid-19 Generation. Today's youth would not be so bright and gay if they inhabited a world of rationing with long queues for such basic commodities as pasta, water, milk or toilet paper. The fact that they don't is due to the tremendous speed and flexibility with which suppliers have met unprecedented spikes in demand...
August 20, 2020

Tech talk with Ocado Solutions

Ocado home delivery scene (photo: Ocado)
The long and winding road that brings Ocado to your door
On the third part of our annual summer tour, our newspaper spoke per video conference with Richard McKenzie, Chief Commercial Officer of Ocado Solutions. Parent company Ocado Group Plc, founded by former Goldman Sachs bankers Tim Steiner and Jason Gissing in 2000, is already the UK's largest online pure player. It has obviously been on a roll during the coronavirus crisis as the lockdown forced even the elderly to master the wonders of digital shopping. But there is more to this success than an unexpected windfall. Steiner now calls Ocado a tech company as well as a food retailer, which is why Ocado Solutions is forging corporate partnerships with global grocers...
August 13, 2020

Système U president Schelcher talks prices

Système U express (photo: Hans-Jürgen Schulz)
Hans-Jürgen Schulz
Successful formats: Système U's supermarkets under the "Super U" logo have been riding the corona crisis very nicely, thank you. The independent retailer is also diversifying into convenience with its "Système U express" fascia
There are grocers who boast. Others will overdramatise a specific point in order to gain a strategic advantage in the media over their competitors. There is also a rare breed of managers who speak so soberly that it takes a while to understand the significance of what they are actually saying. Dominique Schelcher, President of Système U, France's third-largest retailer cooperative, belongs decidedly to the last of these three categories. When, for example, our newspaper asked him whether the current wave of insolvencies and redundancies in France will make local consumers more price-sensitive, he quietly answered that "price will be one of the big themes when school starts again" on September 1. Friends, don't underestimate this, it means nothing less than a price war. Given the fact that Gallic retailers have already had to stem hundreds of millions of euros in coronavirus costs, there will be blood on the floor. And France will not be alone...
August 13, 2020

Reckitt Benckiser CEO talks the corona crisis

Entrance of Reckitt Benckiser HQ in Slough (photo: Reckitt Benckiser)
Reckitt Benckiser
Great expectations: A slogan at the entrance to corporate HQ in Slough near London
On the second part of our annual summer tour, our newspaper spoke per video conference with Reckitt Benckiser CEO Laxman Narasimhan. The 53-year-old Indian-American executive has been at the helm of the consumer goods giant since last September. His appointment came after a decline in net profit since 2017 and a massive write-off in 2019, albeit at a star player with the highest margins in its global peer group. Narasimhan has been on a productivity drive ever since. He is certainly a lucky general. Social distancing may not have been good for the company's Durex brand, but this has been far outweighed by a surge in demand for disinfectants such as Sagrotan, Dettol and Lysol during the coronavirus crisis. Thus group net sales grew by nearly 11 per cent in H2, and net revenue growth for the full year is likely to be in the high single digits. But, not content with being on such a roll, Narasimhan is already focussed on success in a post-Covid world...
July 23, 2020

Brexit in focus

Brexit (photo: Sabine Schulze)
Sabine Schulze
Brexit: Union, confusion or delusion?
As part of our newspaper's annual summer tour, our newspaper has loyally visited Blighty in its last year as an EU member. Undaunted by the many irksome restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, we talked to a fair sprinkling of the great and good within UK retailing and the consumer goods industry. It is a sign of the times that most contacts had to be made by video conference. Our first virtual meeting was with former Labour M.P. William Bain. The canny Scotsman has since gone on to more sensible things and is a Trade Policy Advisor and Brexit expert at the British Retail Consortium in London...
July 23, 2020

Update with Ahold Delhaize CEO Frans Muller

Ahold Delhaize CEO Frans Muller (photo: Philipp von Bruchhausen)
(photo: Philipp von Bruchhausen)
Frans Muller: "We continue to evaluate M&A opportunities"
The fall-out from the coronavirus pandemic is taking an increasing toll of small- and medium-sized companies, the true creators of employment and wealth. Many governments have already provided substantial relief packages for SMEs, but these will hardly suffice to avert a major recession. Worried about the backlash from disgruntled taxpayers, politicians continue to tinker timidly with VAT percentages, and the like, without the gumption to create a new Marshall Plan for a post-Covid Europe. As so often during the bizarre course of human history, humble men and women shall reap as unaccountable bureaucrats have sown. Meanwhile, how are the big ocean-going oil tankers of the industry faring? If they can't survive, no one can. So let's ask Frans Muller, CEO of Dutch-Belgian retail giant Ahold Delhaize, for a quick update...