November 9, 2012
Ranjan Sen: "Cosmetic surgery is not enough"
Smart, eloquent and persuasive, Ranjan Sen is all that one might expect of an executive at a US private equity investor. Talking at Advent International's stylish Frankfurt office overlooking the River Main, the German-Indian Managing Director was surprisingly forthright. After all, his employers belong to an industry which is deliberately "private" and Advent is in the middle of a controversial bid for German retailer Douglas Holding. "We want to hold talks with the management about developing new formats," he says regarding the "Douglas" perfumeries. "Douglas should also use targeted assortments to win the lady customer who doesn't normally shop in a classic perfumery." O.K., sounds plausible, but what else could the Americans be after at the German "lifestyle group"?
November 5, 2012
Desired fragrance: A Douglas perfumery in Germany
Nine months after the confirmation of takeover talks, Boston-based private equity firm Advent International Corporation has presented itself as a potential buyer of Douglas Holding AG. Shareholders in the German “lifestyle” group have till December 4 to accept a bid price of €38 per share. This represents a 42 per cent premium on the undisturbed (four-week volume-weighted) share price before takeover rumours surfaced in mid-January. Enough to satisfy the punters? Advent can already count on the stakes held by three big shareholders amounting to 50.5 per cent. These include Oetker (25.81 per cent), the Kreke family (12.73 per cent) and Erwin Müller (12.01 per cent). However, the bid is dependent on Advent obtaining at least 75 per cent of Hagen-based Douglas Holding, an Mdax-quoted Plc. The question is, of course, will they?
October 31, 2012
Big Meat: Helfried Giesen (Westfleisch), Paul-Heinz and Peter Wesjohann (Wiesenhof) and Heinz Schweer (Vion) [from left to right]
As a spoilt post-war member of the world's "golden billion", it is hard to imagine hunger gnawing at your bowels. At the most, one has tried to diet. Therefore, it is easy to be philosophical about other people's hunger, even when the media regularly provide harrowing images of famine from Biafra to Eritrea in glossy magazines and on TV. It is also easy to be cynical when well-nourished managers from the German meat industry talk world hunger at the 9th Nutrition Symposium of the Heinz Lohmann Foundation in prosperous Hamburg. It is even more tempting to be so when trade representatives conclude in the presence of a former protestant bishop that a radical reduction in meat consumption would not significantly reduce world hunger. But what if the venue was for the good and not just an alibi for a profit-oriented status quo? And did it provide any insight as to how the world is going to feed an estimated 9.3bn people in 2050?
October 26, 2012
Marcel Corstjens: "Some industries can’t travel across borders as well as others"
Academics are always at their best when they challenge groupthink. Marcel Corstjens, Unilever Chaired Professor of Marketing at Insead, and Rajiv Lal, Stanley Roth Senior Professor of Retailing at Harvard Business School, seem to take almost mischievous pleasure in debunking retail myths. The latest holy cow they have attempted to slaughter is the globalisation of retailing. Admittedly, both men do not claim that there are no retailers who succeed internationally. However, they contend that internationalisation doesn't usually increase sales growth or profit margins for publicly-quoted grocery retailers. Despite their willingness to back their opinion with econometric analysis, this is a brave statement to make when top retailers such as Metro Group and Carrefour already operate in 30-odd viz. 40-odd countries.
October 19, 2012
Green disciple: CEO Marc Bolland is proud to call Marks & Spencer the "world's first carbon-neutral major retailer"
As mankind relentlessly continues along its path of self-destruction, future researchers from elsewhere in the galaxy will perhaps one day debate the timing of the so-called “tipping point” when the process of cooking ourselves became irreversible. Satellite photography reveals that the arctic ice cap has receded 45 per cent since the year 2000, and some experts estimate that it could disappear altogether during the summer months as early as 2016. Doubtless, alien historians will note with puzzlement that we had due warning of the catastrophe. The WWF computes that the human race is living as if we had one and a half worlds at our disposal in terms of resources. We Europeans are consuming enough for three worlds and our American cousins for five. Add another 2.5bn people by 2050, and most of us are in denial. “Why don’t we act?” asks Keith Weed of Unilever.
October 12, 2012
Phoenix from the ashes: A "Plus" store in Germany before its sale in 2008 to rival Edeka
Given its vast contraction in bricks & mortar, you could have knocked Lebensmittel Zeitung down with a feather when Tengelmann this week that it plans to open "Plus" stores in Russia. Up until the 90s, Tengelmann was one of the big boys in German and international retailing. But the family-run company then gradually imploded, leaving, for instance, A&P smashed by the wayside in the US. It also sold soft discounter "Plus" in Germany and eight other European countries in 2008. Today Tengelmann Group is only a regional supermarket player in Germany with holdings in DIY operator "Obi", textiles discounter "Kik", and Edeka Group discount subsidiary "Netto". It has also become an imaginative investor in numerous online start-up operations including Zalando. But why now Russia?!
October 10, 2012
Family Nestor: Wolfgang Gutberlet still holds a majority stake in Hessian superstore operator Tegut
Ah, the good guys have found each other at last in the bar and are negotiating an agreement as the publican calls for last rounds. For good guys read Tegut as seller and Migros Zurich as buyer, for publican read the German cartel office in Bonn. Foreign readers can be forgiven if they don't know Tegut as this family-run local hero is hardly known much beyond home borders in the Federal State of Hesse. If you want Tegut in a nutshell, think a medium-sized superstore operator whose 300-odd outlets of varying sizes carry an above-average percentage of organic food. Then add a slightly whimsical dash (meat is hung to classical music in order to improve the carma and quality). What? You don't know Migros either? Now that is a lack.
October 5, 2012
Experimental hotbed: M&S are testing many new online ideas at their Cheshire Oaks branch
True to its aims, World Retail Congress 2012 (WRC) was an insightful experience. Clearly, many UK and international retailers are experimenting with so-called “digitally-enhanced destinations”. These leading players are integrating their online offer within their stores in order to create an omni-channel experience for their customers. Surely, this is the way forward for physical retailers? At Marks & Spencer’s new Chester Oaks store near Chester, for instance, store customers can order from the company's entire catalogue at twelve “browse & order” terminals. With perhaps more than a side glance at Apple, these terminals have been deliberately designed in an attractive high-tech way. “Customers engage more if the screen is fitted to store design,” says online director Laura Wade-Gery.
October 5, 2012
Tesco CEO Philip Clarke: “The online and offline retail experience needs to be like a bespoke, handmade suit”
At this September’s World Retail Congress in London, one subject seemed to dominate top British retailer minds: online. This is hardly surprising in a country where ecommerce has a world-leading retail share of 9 per cent which could increase to 25 per cent by 2020. But how are still essentially store-based retailers coping with the challenge? Whether Tesco, Marks & Spencer or John Lewis Partnership, many UK retailers intend to ramp up their digital offers while integrating them more fully into their physical store bases. Becoming a truly multichannel retailer, however, is easier said than done on a home market in the grip of a double-dip recession. Increasingly digital-savvy consumers are ruthlessly comparing prices via mySupermarket etc., and half the clicks on Tesco.com are price comparisons.
September 4, 2012
Flag planters: Ahold veteran Albert Voogd and discount expert Jürgen Hotz (right) want to conquer Germany with "Albert Heijn to go" convenience shops
So now its official: Ahold will open its first German "Albert Heijn to go" convenience store next week on September 12. The Dutch retail giant has chosen Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen), close to the German border, for its first point of call. A second shop is to follow in Essen later this year. The 80m² outlet in Aix-la-Chapelle is sited on a busy pedestrian street (Peterstraße 48). It will offer around 600 convenience lines, including coffee, tea and cocoa, water, soft drinks, salads, ready meals, snacks, tapas and sandwiches. An invitation to interview Albert Voogd, European VP New Markets, and Jürgen Hotz, General Manager Albert Heijn to Germany, at Ahold's new German office in Mettmann has one reaching for the thermometer, however. Given the saturated, extremely price-conscious and competitive nature of the German market, one could be forgiven for expecting signs of delirium.