October 5, 2012

Digitally-enhanced retail destinations

M&S store facade, Cheshire Oaks/UK (photo: Marks & Spencer)
Marks & Spencer
Experimental hotbed: M&S are testing many new online ideas at their Cheshire Oaks branch (photo: Marks & Spencer)
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

Brave new omni-channel retail world

Philip Clarke, Tesco International CEO (photo: Mark Mackenzie)
Tesco CEO Philip Clarke: “The online and offline retail experience needs to be like a bespoke, handmade suit” (photo: Mark Mackenzie)
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

Albert Heijn opens German convenience store

Albert Voogd & Jürgen Hotz (photo: Georg Lukas)
Flag planters: Ahold veteran Albert Voogd and discount expert Jürgen Hotz (right) want to conquer Germany with "Albert Heijn to go" convenience shops (photo: Georg Lukas)
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.
September 2, 2012

Ricard family back at the helm of Pernod Ricard

Alexandre Ricard (photo: Pernod Ricard)
Crown prince Alexandre Ricard on his inheritance: "Une machine formidable" (photo: Pernod Ricard)
Pernod Ricard continues to thrive. In the year to the end of June 2012, the French spirits & wine group boosted global revenues by 8 per cent to €8.2bn. This represents the fastest rate of growth in annual sales since the recession in 2007/08. Net earnings also rose by 9 per cent to €1.2bn. Normally, such results would have been a cause for a celebratory glass of Perrier-Jouët. Sadly, however, they were overshadowed by the unexpected death of company Chairman Patrick Ricard (67). As from 2015, his nephew, Alexandre Ricard, will take up the reins of power as Chairman & CEO. In the absence of the charismatic patriarch, Thierry Billot, MD Brands, talked us through the results and how the family company plans to nurture its international brands into the future.
August 29, 2012

Zalando – Germany’s online "shoe-ting" star

Zalando.de screenshot (photo: sf-zalando)
Zalando.de: Still looking to make a profit (photo: sf-zalando)
This company may sound like a white rabbit with long ears which the magician pulls from a top hat at the circus. In reality, it is the wonder boy of German e-commerce. In less than four years, online shoe and fashion retailer Zalando has developed from a tiny start-up operation to a major category killer. The Berlin-based operation more than tripled net revenues to €510m in 2011, and the €1bn-sales mark could be hit this year. This stunning growth has been fired by massive investment in colourful TV spots and catchy online banners. Nielsen computes that Zalando spent around €90m gross in advertising last year, giving the brand a 95 per cent recognition rate among German consumers. Meanwhile, Zalando has rapidly expanded into new markets and categories. The internet “shoe-ting” star is now active in twelve European countries.
August 24, 2012

Aldi plans health & beauty offensive

Aldi health & beauty department (photo: Georg Lukas)
Georg Lukas
Pretty discounter: Aldi wants to dynamise its own label offer with top health & beauty brands (photo: Georg Lukas)
Macho Aldi is getting prettier as the cultural revolution at Germany's largest hard discounter gains pace. According to trade sources, the Alpha males at the top are in advanced negotiations with suppliers to list top health & beauty brands. To date, Aldi has generally had little time for brand magic and only stocks own label products in this category. Talks are said to be furthest advanced with Beiersdorf, the maker of Nivea skin cream etc. Other frequently heard names include top brand manufacturers L'Oréal, Henkel, Procter & Gamble, Colgate and Nestlé. None of the parties concerned cared to comment on these rumours except for Nestlé who denies the reports. But the retail giant clearly wants to add more punch to its health & beauty assortment.
August 23, 2012

Populist crusades against retailers

Spanish protests (photo: Martin Deutsch_Flickr.com)
Martin Deutsch_Flickr.com
Carrefour: One of several foreign retailers facing the ire of protesters in Spain (photo: Martin Deutsch_Flickr.com)
Are retailers Robin Hood or the Sheriff of Nottingham plundering farmers and consumers alike? They are certainly an easy target for a growing number of populist agitators throughout Europe. The current financial and economic crisis gripping the peripheral countries of the eurozone has not only hurt consumer pockets. It has also dramatically increased the number of the unemployed, marginalised, and disaffected. This leaves the door wide open not only for the sincere social reformer, but also for instigators, self-appointed tribunes of the people, and Pied Pipers of Hamelin. One political agitator, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, mayor of the small southern Spanish town of Marinaleda, seems to bear a particular grudge against foreign retailers.
August 17, 2012

German discounter-supermarket hybrid

Aldi North's latest German store concept in Castrop-Rauxel (photo: Georg Lukas)
Big moderniser: Aldi North's new, enlarged store concept in Castrop-Rauxel (photo: Georg Lukas)
Germans who shop at discounters such as Aldi or Lidl are increasingly confronted with stores that look like building sites. The leading no-frills retailers are not only competing with rivals Netto Markendiscount, Penny, Norma, and Netto Supermarkt. They are also trying to regain the ground lost to supermarkets over the past few years. German supermarkets have generally become more assertive on prices, introduced new assortments, and spruced up their stores. “Save yourself a trip to the discounter” could be their new motto. Meanwhile, Germany’s 15,660 discount stores have virtually saturated the market in terms of sites. Market researcher Trade Dimensions confirms that only 21 outlets have been opened since March on a net basis. This is by far the lowest opening rate for years. So what now?
August 13, 2012

Tengelmann CEO Haub talks multi-channel

Karl-Erivan W. Haub (photo: Georg Lukas)
Active in two worlds: LZ editors Silvia Flier and Mathias Vogel cross-examine Karl-Erivan Haub on his growing online empire (photo: Georg Lukas)
Call it chutzpah or simply get-up-and-go, Karl-Erivan W. Haub is an entrepreneur who has successfully reinvented himself. Since his appointment as Tengelmann CEO in 2000, Haub has presided over a steady implosion* at the once dominant family-owned company and has radically downsized the Mülheim-based retail group. However, anyone who thought this fifth-generation family representative was bidding adieu in instalments has seriously underestimated the man. Since 2010, Haub has also been enthusiastically building an empire of online businesses. A score of participations and a big learning curve later, Haub (52) is probably in a unique position as a retailer. He can compare the merits of clicks and bricks, and make as shrewd a guess as anyone regarding how best to combine them.
August 8, 2012

Metro Group's Asian headache

Metro CEO Olaf Koch (photo: Bert Bostelmann)
Metro CEO Olaf Koch: "No one is euphoric here" (photo: Bert Bostelmann)
In the heady, halcyon days of empire when Metro Group ruled the world, or at least thought it did, a little local difficulty in a minor country or two wasn't allowed to question the established order. After all, the German retail giant's C&C business was generally such a cash machine that it could afford to sub out the odd weak link in an otherwise golden chain. As earnings have fallen and look set to stagnate, those days are probably gone for good. Cost-efficiency is now the name of the game at head office in Dusseldorf. This makes it a field day, of course, for accountants and apparently also strategic consultants Alix Partners as they run their slide rule dispassionately over every national operation. This is denied by Metro who merely confirms that Alix Partners are reviewing the organisational structures of Metro Properties.