April 19, 2012

Is Tesco's carbon footprint getting footsore?

Tesco's carbon footprint (photo: The Grocer)
Upon my farm he did put his lovely foot: In four years, Tesco has labelled less than one per cent of its assortment with carbon footprints (photo: The Grocer)
Tesco is generally recognised as a forerunner when it comes to carbon footprint product labelling. But the UK's leading grocer by sales seems to have gone a little lame on what former CEO Terry Leahy had intended to be a triumphant marathon. Over the last four years, Tesco has only managed to research 1,100 lines and to label around 500 on an average assortment of 70,000. Against this backdrop, Professor Simonetta Carbonaro, CEO of REAL_Ise Strategic Consultants, and Dagmar Bottenbruch, Board Director at FLO-CERT, the certification arm of Fair Trade, dispute the usefulness of CO² labelling. Both international sustainability experts give the whole idea a thorough bastinado in an interview with our newspaper.
April 12, 2012

M&S chairman Vandevelde turns investor

Luc Vandevelde, Change Capital Partners (photo: Change Capital Partners)
Luc Vandevelde: "We are shooting for a 25 per cent rate of return" (photo: Change Capital Partners)
Luc Vandevelde is one of a growing number of former top retail managers who have made their way into the lucrative world of private equity. The former Chairman of Marks & Spencer and Carrefour, known as 'Lucky Luke' in the trade, founded private equity fund management company Change Capital Partners (CCP) in 2003. The London-based business invests in medium-sized consumer goods companies and retailers throughout Europe. Vandevelde (61) is thus in an excellent position to compare the very different worlds of the Plc and the private equity-financed mid-cap. This polite, polyglot Belgian is modest about his own achievements and stresses the importance of fellow MDs Roger Holmes, Steve Petrow, and Stephan Lobmeyr. He also feels that the title of CEO should be translated as "Chief Enabling Officer“ rather than as "Chief Execution Officer“.
April 5, 2012

Talk with Alliance Boots boss Stefano Pessina

Stefano Pessina, Executive Chairman Alliance Boots (photo: Alliance Boots)
Stefano Pessina: "I'm not driven by money, glory or compliments!" (photo: Alliance Boots)
This interview had to start with Schlecker. After all, Germany's third-largest drugstore operator, which filed for insolvency in January, is looking for investors. And who better than dealmaker Stefano Pessina? The Italian billionaire is Executive Chairman and joint owner of Alliance Boots, Europe's largest pharmaceutical wholesaler and drugstore multiple. This behemoth was created five years ago when he and US private equity partner Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) took Alliance Boots private after the merger of chemist-cum-drugstore multiple Boots in the UK and Anglo-Italian pharmaceuticals wholesaler Alliance Unichem in 2006. So is Pessina interested in making a bid for Schlecker and, while we are at it, could he buy DocMorris, the online service of German pharmaceutical wholesaler Celesio?
March 29, 2012

New Metro CEO Olaf Koch offers culture change

Olaf Koch, Metro CEO (photo: Metro Group)
Hard rock fan Olaf Koch: "We don't want a top-down culture anymore" (photo: Metro Group)
Can it be that we now have a down to earth, non-arrogant boss at Metro Group? New CEO Olaf Koch certainly wants to revolutionise corporate ethos. The 41-year-old former IT expert will need to act fast though if Germany's largest retailer/wholesaler by sales is not to be pushed down the ranking ladder by rival Schwarz-Gruppe (Schwarz Group) this year. Already in 2011, Dusseldorf-based Metro Group posted annual revenues of €66.7bn compared with around €64bn at Schwarz Group. This is surprising because Metro holds a number of trump cards. As a plc it is able to tap the capital markets more easily; the group can diversify risk and seize chances across a broad store portfolio; and its main cash & carry division is not highly capital-intensive and spans both stable western European markets and higher-growth ones in eastern Europe and Asia. Regrettably, however, Metro has been embroiled in family squabbles among shareholders and top management, resulting in a 40 per cent decline in the share price last year.
March 22, 2012

German retail top dogs

Dennree store facade (photo: Dennree)
Biggest gainer: Natural & organic food specialist Dennree grew faster last year than any other German retailer (photo: Dennree)
Who were the winners and losers in German food retailing in 2011? A glance at the Top 30 ranking list, compiled by market research company TradeDimensions, reveals all. One thing is for sure, Germany is currently an Isle of the Blessed for local retailers who have not had to contend with the severe recessionary problems of their European counterparts. Last year, Germany's food retail universe increased by 1.8 per cent to a whopping €228bn. This may represent a decline in the growth rate compared with 2010 (+2.3 per cent), but it is still the second positive year in succession. Already high concentration levels continued to increase slightly. The Top 30 players now make up 97.5 per cent of the total market, and smaller operators such as Ratio have disappeared from the ranking altogether.
March 16, 2012

Adieu, Carrefour CEO Lars Olofsson

Lars Olofsson, CEO Carrefour (photo: Carrefour)
Lars Olofsson: "I think it better to leave the answer to your question to the new team" (photo: Carrefour)
Departing CEO & Chairman Lars Olofsson was gently licked by retail analysts and financial journalists in Paris last week following his presentation of the Carrefour's annual results for 2011. Despite a 13.6 per cent reduction in net debt to €6.9bn, and above-target cumulative cost savings of €1.5bn, they should have savaged him like pit bulls. After five (!) profit warnings last year, ebitda at the French retail giant declined 11.3 per cent to €3.9bn. Net income "affected by significant one-off elements" fell by 14.3 per cent to €371m. Meanwhile net sales remained virtually stagnant at €81.3bn (plus 0.9 per cent). Ominously, Olofsson attributed these figures to “external and internal problems”.
March 9, 2012

Walmart ante portas

Juan Roig, CEO Mercadona (photo: Mercadona)
Mercadona CEO Juan Roig: Is he being courted by Walmart? (photo: Mercadona)
Sometimes it is hard to believe one’s own research or what informants are telling you: Walmart would seem to be actively negotiating a return to Western Europe. According to reliable and independent sources, the world’s largest retailer by sales is in talks with Spain’s leading retailer Mercadona as well as with Italy’s foremost hypermarket operator Esselunga. One also hesitates to print, when Mercadona’s head office denies the same: "You're barking up the wrong tree.", Walmart, as usual, refuses to comment, and no answer has been received from Esselunga to date. As, furthermore, our newspaper’s sources do not wish to be named, it is only possible to assess how probable the above story might, or might not be, and to explore the potential logic behind any such discussions.
March 9, 2012

UEFA Euro 2012 liberates Ukraine retailing

UEFA Euro 2012 Ukraine (photo: LZ-Archiv)
Symbol of hope: Not just retailers stand to benefit from the Ukraine co-hosting UEFA Euro 2012 (photo: LZ-Archiv)
Kick it like freedom, Ukraine! For some Ukrainians football is more than just "the beautiful game". In a country which limits the right of its 45 million citizens to travel to the West, but allows its oligarchs insolent and oppressive liberty, co-hosting UEFA Euro 2012 surely means something more than increased retail sales. UEFA does not only lighten the daily load and the hearts of the common people; it is also the chance to open both markets and minds towards new possibilities of the human spirit. Our newspaper asked three experts intimately connected with this facinating country to what extent this year's soccer could change the climate for retail investors. Rewe International Board Member Janusz Kulik, Foxtrot CEO Uwe Klenk, and management consultant Peter Györffy are western pioneers who remain committed to growing their businesses there.
March 9, 2012

Biedronka CEO Pedro da Silva talks Polish retail

Folder football cover (photo: Biedronka)
Top of the league: Biedronka is official sponsor of the Polish national football team (photo: Biedronka)
Although he chooses to downplay Biedronka's role in the forthcoming UEFA championship, Pedro Pereira da Silva, COO of Portuguese parent company Jerónimo Martins, is a clever tactician. As official sponsor of the Polish national football team, Biedronka not only underlines its market leadership with over 1,900 outlets throughout the country. This also makes the discounter seem more Polish than the Poles themselves. One could think of no better way to enhance one's image and celebrate the tremendous identity the company has forged with the interests and emotional needs of local customers. Jerónimo Martins Chairman Alexandre Soares dos Santos has already revealed some of the secrets behind the Lisbon-based family company's improbable success in a far-away country. For instance, Portuguese managers assigned to Biedronka are required to take their families with them and are obliged to stay in Poland at weekends. So there is none of this "how-can-we-jet-away-as-quickly-as-possible-from-this-place" attitude too frequently witnessed among managers at many other international retailers.
March 1, 2012

Albert Heijn plans German convenience stores

AH to go (photo: Ahold)
AH to go: Let's hope the Germans like sandwiches (photo: Ahold)
Dick Boer could have done so, but he didn't. Ahold's ultra-cautious CEO gave no hint at the presentation of the annual results yesterday as to when the Dutch retail giant will be entering the German convenience market. Instead, we were told about an admittedly creditable performance which has outfaced the current financial crisis: 2011 net sales gained 5.5 per cent at constant exchange rates to €30.3bn, and net income jumped 19.2 per cent to just over €1bn. The reticence about the entry into Germany really wasn't necessary though. After all, everyone is shouting from the rooftops that the Flying Dutchman of international retailing will be opening in the Dusseldorf/Cologne area this August.