August 13, 2020
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: 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
(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...
April 22, 2020
(photo: Robert Kneschke_shutterstock)
"I've warned you once, I'm not going to tell you again..."
Dear Retailers, If you want to survive a savage post-Covid-19 recession, you will have to change your shabby old customer marketing ways. True, the era of mass retailing has always been an excuse for poor and surly service, but the times they are a-changin'. Just look around. Before, you couldn't pack enough customers into your stores, and you kept them in for as long as possible. Now, in the time of coronavirus and the Great Lockdown, you drastically limit their entry and push 'em out as quickly as you can...
April 6, 2020
Sensible lady: This customer acts responsibly and wears a protective mask, but doesn't let the loss of personal freedom break her spirit
It's not Home Office, it's Living at Work. Finding it harder than ever with a grumpy spouse, hyperactive children and the faulty technical systems lovingly provided by your employer's IT department? Ping, ping, ping! Doubtless you are also enjoying the telephone calls, emails and WhatsApp messages from your control-freak boss every few minutes and 24/7. Rather than add to the current hysterical overkill in communication, this blog promises not to burden your electronic in-tray with any further 'urgent' newsletters about the current pandemic. Instead, readers may find here how Aldi China, Colruyt in Belgium, Esselunga in Italy, Homeplus in Korea, and Mercadona in Spain are coping with the scourge of Covid-19...
January 21, 2020
CEO Tomáš Čupr: Is determined to make Rohlik an international brand
Rohlik.cz is already the leading home delivery company for food in its native Czech Republic. The online start-up now intends to honk its horn in Germany within the next three to five years. "It's my primary objective," says CEO and co-founder Tomáš Čupr. Rohlik has just kick-started international expansion in neighbouring Hungary and will press the ignition button in both Vienna and Bucharest later this year. Čupr sees both range selection and delivery speed as the company's USP, especially when competing with bricks & mortar retailers who try to run online shops. Rohlik is currently active in nine Czech cities where it can deliver within a timeframe of just two hours. Even in distant Budapest, where international retail giants like Tesco, Auchan or Spar deliver the next day, the pure player says it can get the job done in three hours. It's one thing to be quick, but it's a completely different thing to be both fast and profitable. So how do these Czechs make their dough?
December 26, 2019
Another year, another decade. Given the current rate of global warming, what will the state of the world be in 2029? Will electric canoes have replaced the motor car on flooded streets – much to the glee of Greta Thunberg, the new president of the EU Commission? Brexit Britain will have either sunk into the North Sea or have confounded its detractors by transforming London into a Singapore-upon-Thames. And what of today's strongmen? Will Trump, Putin, Erdogan & Co. be revered as national heroes in white marble monuments or will a new female meritocracy have assigned them to the dustbin of history? In view of these riveting issues, it is almost unfair to ask our international panel of experts: "What do you see as the most significant or exciting development in retailing/fmcg manufacturing and the most important challenge for the future?" But perhaps they could at least tell us, whether these will be the Roaring Twenties for the trade or whether shopping as we know it will disappear for ever. True to our reputation for fairness, we print their answers in alphabetical order of surname...
December 19, 2019
Nietzsche, che dice?
Nietzsche considered it an infallible sign of decadence when art makes art its subject. So this strange German philosopher would probably not approve of any blog talking about itself, albeit for the first time since its creation ten years ago. Although praise of one's employers always sounds hoaky, it is to their credit that this blog has never been subjected to rigorous cost analysis. Clearly, our publishers see it as one of many facets within the manufactory of LZnet, the online arm of our weekly B2B newspaper Lebensmittel Zeitung. The reverse side of this generosity of spirit is the non-existence of any budget (importunate SEO advisers please take note). But employees are not obliged to whinge and whine when corporate cost controllers do not choose to wine and dine. Instead even German journalists, who must keep their hands unsullied by filthy lucre as per strict local press law, may take up the search for a payment model as a challenge worthy of the online entrepreneur...
December 18, 2019
To be or not to be: Retailers must decide (source: Loadbee)
Today's trade has become so technical that one often wonders if it has now become a province for nerds only. It is therefore refreshing that founder & CEO Christian Junker doesn't strike out into Aramaic when discussing the merits of German start-up loadbee. The idea behind this Swabian company seems savvy enough. Loadbee provides brands with the software to display their products on retailer web shops. A mere glance at many of these will confirm that products are often sold in a way that does little credit to either manufacturer or retailer. Meanwhile online customers just have to grin and bear it. So there is clearly a need for more elegant presentation in cyberspace. But why can't either the retailer or the manufacturer just do it themselves? Junker insists they need a middle-man...
November 28, 2019
(photo: Philipp von Bruchhausen)
Frans Muller: "What you kill is what you eat"
Frans Muller may be a mild-mannered gentleman with a pleasing dash of humour, but he's a frustrating CEO to interview. He won't tell you whom Ahold Delhaize wants to buy next or if the Dutch retail giant intends to do a spin-off! As a matter of honour, he won't even talk about one of his former employers, Metro Group. But as disappointing as these silences are to the journalist, the more one is grudgingly obliged to respect the man's loyalty to shareholders and corporate governance. Before we praise this 58-year-old Dutchman to death for not delivering the crown jewels free-of-charge to our doorstep via the company's online services Peapod or Bol.com, why should you, dear reader, peruse these lines further? Perhaps to compensate for not being able to field share price-sensitive questions, Muller was prepared to talk generically about the strategic issues he faces at the helm of this €63bn-odd behemoth...