December 26, 2013

Retail experts predict 2014 & beyond

2014+ (photo: Simone-Peter_pixelio.de)
A matter of perspective (photo: Simone-Peter_pixelio.de)
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 talks coffee machines

Fabio De'Longhi, CEO De'Longhi (photo: De'Longhi)
Fabio De'Longhi: "All manufacturers would love to be monopolists!" (photo: De'Longhi)
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

Tesco's silicon valley on Thames

Oli Johnson (photo: Mark Mackenzie)
Rainmaking Loft co-founder Oli Johnson: "This project wouldn't have been possible without a sponsor like Tesco" (photo: Mark Mackenzie)
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 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: “This 10,000ft² co-working space is focussed on fast-growth start-ups. It aims to provide a fostering and collaborative environment where they can concentrate on building great companies.” 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

erento's internet sharing platform

Rob Paterson (photo: erento)
erento CEO Rob Paterson: "Charity is good for retailers" (photo: erento)
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 1960's, 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

Tengelmann CEO thinks German e-commerce

Karl-Erivan Haub (photo: Tengelmann)
Tengelmann CEO Karl-Erivan Haub: "Retailers are increasingly becoming tech companies" (photo: Tengelmann)
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

Professor Mark Post and his stem-cell burger

Professor Mark Post (photo: David Parry/PA Wire)
Enjoy your meal: Mark Post believes the lab-cultured beef burger could help solve the coming food crisis and combat climate change (photo: David Parry/PA Wire)
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

Ketchum Pleon's "food e-vangelist" consumer

Linda Eatherton, Partner, Director Global Food & Nutrition Practice (photo: Ketchum Pleon)
Linda Eatherton: "Companies should realise that there is a time to sell and a time to tell" (photo: Ketchum Pleon)
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 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"?
October 25, 2013

Echochamber searches for global store ideas

Matthew Brown, Head of Research, Echochamber Ltd. (photo: LZ-Archiv)
Matthew Brown: "Generosity pays in retailing" (photo: LZ-Archiv)
Matthew Brown, Head of Research at UK-based management consultancy Echochamber Ltd., has a great job. Together with business partner Howard Saunders, Brown tours the world around twenty times a year looking for interesting new store concepts, ideas and trends. Tracking him down with difficulty, our newspaper sounded this professional globetrotter out on his relentless search for best practice intelligence. The result: A tour d'horizon of international retailing ranging from Loblaws in Canada and Tesco's brand new hypermarket format in Watford/UK to Metro Group's future store in Germany. But big for Brown isn't always beautiful, and the small guys also get a mention when they do a good job of delighting the consumer. Thus we also hear about the gastronomic delights of Eataly, Victor Churchill, a traditional butcher's shop in Sydney, or Caribbean-inspired Hotel Chocolat.
October 24, 2013

Food quality made in Japan

Food advertising for German products (photo: Sabine Hedewig-Mohr)
Japanese retail culture: Authentic food, aesthetic presentation, charming service (photo: Sabine Hedewig-Mohr)
By European and US standards food prices in Japan are astronomic. This is primarily due to high import duties aimed at protecting local producers with only limited available land. But near starvation during WW2 has also bitten deeply into the collective consciousness of the Japanese. Successive governments have therefore strived for national food self-sufficiency and many politicians are alarmed that this has already fallen to below 50 per cent. Thus international free trade agreements are often viewed with scepticism. Whatever the economic reasons for often quite staggering prices, food is highly valued in this fascinating country. In fact, the Japanese look aghast at the way it is treated as a mere commodity in western retailing. Can they teach us something about value-added?
October 21, 2013

World Retail Congress revisited

Georges Plassat, CEO Carrefour (photo: World Retail Congress)
Carrefour CEO Georges Plassat: "The hypermarket isn't dead" (photo: World Retail Congress)
This year's venue at La Défense in Paris was all that the trade visitor has come to expect from the World Retail Congress: authoritative, cosmopolitan and broad-ranging. Thus we were again treated to three days of high-class retail lectures and discussion from mass consumer food to luxury fashion and from the saturated European High Street to the almost limitless potential in South-East Asia. At the end of the forum, however, the impartial observer was left with a vague feeling of having watched a surrealist film. Old, but powerful retailers reminisced about past triumphs and painted a golden future for the out-of-town hypermarket, while middle-aged managers talked of nothing but e-commerce and Generation Y.