March 22, 2011

Pernod Ricard CFO talks cognac & money

Gilles Bogaert, CFO Pernod Ricard (photo: Pernod Ricard)
Gilles Bogaert: "Don't underestimate mature markets" (photo: Pernod Ricard)
Mild-mannered Gilles Bogaert is one of the lucky CFOs. For, despite rising raw materials prices, Pernod Ricard's premiumisation strategy gives him a pretty good gross margin to play with. True to form, the world's second-largest drinks maker announced some excellent Q1 results at this week's press conference* in Paris. Revenues (+13 per cent), earnings (+14 per cent) and full-year guidance for 2010/11 were all up. So top management should have had every reason to reach for their favourite tipple in the ground-floor company bar. But hardly had CEO Pierre Pringuet finished speaking than the share price began to fall, ending more than 4 per cent lower on the day. Perhaps some analysts had been expecting even better results, and others had gone in for a spot of profit-taking. Such stock market vagaries are, however, mere water on a duck's back for Gilles Bogaert.
March 3, 2011

New boy at Kaiser’s Tengelmann online service

Pete Clifford, Online boss Kaiser's Tengelmann (photo: Kaiser's Tengelmann)
Englishman in Berlin: Pete Clifford now runs the food online business of Kaiser's Tengelmann (photo: Kaiser's Tengelmann)
Since October 1, Pete Clifford (28) is the new head of grocery online at supermarket operator Kaiser's Tengelmann. We asked the former manager for his initial thoughts on German e-commerce, but this Brit was better than his word and gave us an essay instead. Pete Clifford's words carry weight. After all, this young manager has been intimately involved with one of the world's few successful online food shopping businesses in both Korea and the UK. Certainly the man has a challenging task at his new employers. To date, German food retailers have been generally slow to develop online as a new sales channel. And only recently, Germany's largest mail order retailer, Otto Group, announced that it was abandoning its food online plans. Will Kaiser's Tengelmann, whose sister company Tengelmann E-Commerce-Beteiligungs GmbH has just taken a stake in a seventh (!) online shop business since December 2009, crack the nut with its own food online delivery business? At all events the Berlin-based company has certainly made a first savvy move by recruiting international competence from Tesco.
February 19, 2011

Legendary designer Rodney Fitch talks retail

Rodney Fitch (photo: EHI)
Retail design pioneer Rodney Fitch (photo: EHI)
Tesco more trustworthy than the Bank of England? Aldi, Germany's most revered food retailer, not trusted in the UK?! These are just some of the controversial opinions stridently voiced by international design guru Professor Rodney Fitch. Rodney Fitch (72) is both a good friend and a good hater. Many in the trade speak well of him, but those who have felt the lash of his eloquent tongue are not likely to forget the experience. His comments on Neal Lawson, the left-wing retail critic and author of 'All Consuming', are not for the faint-hearted. But this very characteristic is a great boon to the interviewer. Fitch never pulls his punches and is as verbally entertaining as he is astute. Small wonder then that quite a few of his so-called 'Rodney-isms' have become dicta in Anglo-Saxon business circles.
January 7, 2011

Retail experts predict 2011 and beyond

Future view (photo:
Forward view: Trade gurus scan the horizon (photo:
In January each year, our newspaper contacts a variety of international experts connected with retailing and asks them to guess what the future holds in store for the trade. This time we approached a score of pundits in fields ranging from private equity to advertising and requested their answer to the following question in around 70 to 80 words: "What do you see as the most exciting development in retailing/the fmcg industry and the most important challenge in the future?" Knowing that everyone is wiser after the event, a surprising number were brave enough to look into their crystal ball and predict the future. As their replies are self-evident, we give them below, without commentary and in alphabetical order of surname:
December 16, 2010

Why Marks & Spencer failed in Germany

Marc Bolland, CEO Marks & Spencer (photo: M&S)
Oh, là là: Clothes to crumpets retailer Marks & Spencer could reopen soon in Paris. It is presumed that CEO Marc Bolland didn't put up any stiff resistance to this particular photo shoot (photo: M&S)
Just over six weeks ago, rumour had it that Marks & Spencer was planning a return to continental Europe, and that the department store operator hoped to buy back some of the 38 outlets sold there in 2001. According to The Sunday Telegraph, the London-based multiple has approached a number of European retailers, including El Corte Inglés and Galeries Lafayette, regarding properties. However, new chief executive Marc Bolland failed to announce any such plans when he unveiled his three-year plan for the group in November. Instead, Bolland referred to the doubling of international sales to between €943m and €1.2bn by 2013-2014 – mainly by expanding the company's franchise model. Despite this cold water on the flames of speculative journalism, the idea of a return is more than plausible. Could M&S also make a come-back in Germany, and why did it fail here last time?
December 15, 2010

Berggruen calls on Jennings to save Karstadt

Andrew Jennings, CEO Karstadt (photo: Karstadt)
An Englishman in Essen: Karstadt's new CEO Andrew Jennings has the hottest seat in German retailing (photo: Karstadt)
The appointment of Andrew R. Jennings as the new CEO of Karstadt with effect from January 1, 2011 has created considerable debate here in Germany. The 62-year-old Londoner and former executive director of Woolworths South Africa will take up what is probably the biggest challenge in German retailing: the turnaround of one of the country's two big department store groups which only emerged from insolvency in September. This has been critically received by some who admit Jennings's impressive pedigree as an international retailer, but who point to his total lack of experience in German retailing. The fact that Karstadt is likely to retain the services of Jennings's predecessor, interim CEO Thomas Fox, for at least a year is seen as a tacit admission of how hard it is for any outsider to quickly learn the ropes of the German trade. Jennings is also portrayed as a man sitting on a time bomb.
November 19, 2010

Fitness training for Schlecker drugstores

Lars & Meike Schlecker (photo: Schlecker)
Hans & Gretel in the woods: Lars & Meike Schlecker must communicate their father's Fit For Future programme (photo: Schlecker)
Lars and Meike Schlecker, the children of owner Anton Schlecker (66), have detailed plans to revamp Europe's largest drugstore retailer. As part of a corporate restructure named "Fit for Future", the Ehingen-based multiple intends to invest €230m over the next 18 months in the modernisation of its store base, trim assortments and brighten store ambience. The privately-run company hopes that these measures will reverse recent negative sales trends and begin to bear fruit as from 2012. "Revenues and store numbers will increase again in 2012," says Lars Schlecker. Fit for Future is the latest in a series of make-overs during the past three years. Both the larger XL, XXL and the small traditional AS outlets will now carry an identical and modernised Schlecker logo. New game, new luck?
November 1, 2010

Ibrahim talks retail design in a digital world

Ibrahim Ibrahim, CEO Portland (photo: Portland)
Ibrahim Ibrahim: Retail designer with a vision (photo: Portland)
With a name like Ibrahim Ibrahim, the man was hardly going to be boring. At the unpretentious head office of his company, Portland Design Associates Ltd., in Clerkenwell/London visitors are obliged to pass through a heart-shaped entrance and glass walls sprayed with the witty comments and jokes of his creative staff. Ibrahim is a man with a pleasant demeanour, kind eyes, and an internationally recognised retail designer whose work is based on his interpretation of the future consumer. This futurist thinker and family man believes he knows how young people on the streets of London, Rio or Tokyo will want to live in ten years' time and what they will be consuming. This is an ambitious task and a brave call to make. So let us now consider Mr. Ibrahim's retail flowers.
November 1, 2010

Chiquita boss Fernando Aguirre talks bananas

Fernando Aguirre, Chairman & CEO Chiquita (photo: Chiquita)
Fernando Aguirre: "Going from commodity-driven to value-added in the fruit trade is a hard, but doable task" (photo: Chiquita)
When Fernando Aguirre, after 24 years at Procter & Gamble, jumped saddle to become Chairman & CEO at Chiquita in 2004 he didn't need to make a big leap. Both virtually face each other in downtown Cincinnati and share the same view onto a pleasant colonnaded square ranked with Chinese wisteria. At first blush, the appointment of an industry outsider to run one of the world's largest fruit companies with annual revenues of $3.5bn (€2.5bn) was an unusual choice. But P&G is a past master at nurturing brands, and Chiquita had been looking for an international manager to take the company away from the grim, price-driven world of mass commodities. By most metrics Aguirre has not disappointed those who put their trust in him. He has reduced the group's overdependence on bananas (now around 60 per cent of net sales) and diversified the product base towards high-margin products such as smoothies, salad meals and healthy snacks. He has also forged a very promising joint-venture partnership with Danone.
October 22, 2010

Talk with Rewe CEO Alain Caparros

Rewe CEO Alain Caparros (photo: Reinhard Rosendahl)
Alain Caparros: "I never avoid a fight" (photo: Reinhard Rosendahl)
Alain Caparros has been top dog at Rewe for four years now. The CEO of Germany's second-largest food retailer has certainly enjoyed a meteoric, if sometimes turbulent career in international retailing. Under the aegis of this charismatic Frenchman, Rewe has undergone a major restructure and plenty of innovation. The Cologne-based retailer cooperative-cum-multiple now posts over €50bn in annual revenues. Caparros is always good for a surprise. The 54-year-old has recently been nominated to the supervisory board of German department store chain Karstadt which has just emerged from insolvency. And only last week, Caparros unexpectedly parted company from Armin Rehberg, a well-respected manager in the trade and the board member responsible for Rewe discount subsidiary Penny. So let's have a word* with this enigma.