November 4, 2009

Rinascente investor Borletti talks Karstadt

Maurizio Borletti, CEO Borletti Group (photo: Borletti Group)
Maurizio Borletti: "There is space for a pan-European department store operator"
For months local media has sizzled with speculation that the investment consortium behind Italy's leading department store chain La Rinascente could also bid for failed German department store group Karstadt. Vittorio Radice, CEO at Milan-based Rinascente, doesn't buy into the logic of any such deal, but declined to speak for its investors. On the other hand, managing investment partner Maurizio Borletti has very clear views on the subject. Admittedly, Borletti Group only has a 4 per cent stake in the new limited company that is La Rinascente (2008 revenues: €900m). But Maurizio Borletti's influence within the investment consortium allows him to punch above his weight. This is essentially due to his impeccable retail credentials.
October 23, 2009

Schlecker demands better terms & conditions

Anton Schlecker, founder Schlecker (photo: Schlecker)
Congratulations: German drugstore baron Anton Schlecker is now a senior citizen -- suppliers are cordially invited to join the birthday party celebrations
As Anton Schlecker begins to celebrate his 65th birthday, the founder and CEO of Germany's largest drugstore discount chain shows no sign of wanting to retire. True to form, Schlecker is already demanding better terms & conditions from suppliers for the company's 35th anniversary in 2010. They claim that the drugstore king is demanding 3 to 5 per cent of their annual revenues and threatening to delist them in the event of non-compliance. Lebensmittel Zeitung's request for clarification, elicited a prompt response from Schlecker headquarters in Ehingen: "Suppliers have grown with Schlecker for 35 years and have greatly profited from the company's success...However, a full listing has been called into question for those suppliers who no longer wish to participate in this extremely positive joint development." Sounds like a really fun party. So another year older, but nothing has changed: Few retailers polarise opinion as strongly as Anton Schlecker.
October 20, 2009

Tengelmann's long implosion

Tengelmann head office in Mülheim (photo: Tengelmann)
How green was my valley: Tengelmann as it views itself
Like a dark star in Germany's retail cosmos, Tengelmann continues to implode – slowly, surely, inevitably. As per 2008, TradeDimensions could still rank Tengelmann Group as Germany's sixth-largest food retailer with annual sales of €14bn and a market share of just over 6 per cent. But after the sale of many of its German "Plus" soft discount outlets, the Mülheim-based company is certainly a fair deal smaller today. Apparently, the family-run company is also near selling the "Plus" store networks in Austria, Rumania and Bulgaria. German hard discounter Lidl could be interested in the company's Bulgarian outlets and Delhaize Group subsidiary Alfa-Beta is believed to lust after the Rumanian ones.
October 1, 2009

How to get listed with German retailers

Anuga 2009
Anuga: The world's largest food trade fair held in Cologne every two years in October
Should there be anyone on the planet who still doesn't know: In the strictest of confidence, Anuga, the world's largest food trade fair, will be held this October in Cologne. Lebensmittel Zeitung, of course, will have its own stand there. So you want to enter Europe's largest market with a population of over 80 million people? Did you know that these prosperous consumers spend one fifth of their disposable income on food, drink and tobacco €200bn ($300bn; £175bn)? And are you aware that nearly seven out of every ten euros paid by these customers at the tills is spent with Germany's Top 5 grocers (Edeka, Metro, Rewe, Schwarz Group & Aldi)? Perhaps a suitable time to give some tips & tricks on how foreign food & drink exporters can get listed by German retailers...
September 17, 2009

Talk with Coop Italia CEO Vincenzo Tassinari

Vincenzo Tassinari, CEO Coop Italia (photo: Coop Italia)
Vincenzo Tassinari: "Italian retailing faces a tough selection process where only the strong will survive"
Dr. Vincenzo Tassinari (60) hardly seems to have changed since he last talked with Lebensmittel Zeitung at Coop Italia head office in Bologna in 1990. "I am a little greyer though." Like most Italians, the CEO beamed when asked after his children, and life's knocks didn't seem to have dented his friendly manner. Admittedly, it is easier to be happy when you can act from a position of strength. Whereas the co-operative movement all but self-destructed in Germany with the demise of the Coop in 1989, the Italian consumer co-operative has nearly seven million members. Despite the tough recession in Italy, Coop Italia, with annual sales last year of €12.6bn, has a leading market share (nearly 18 per cent) of the Italian grocery market. At the end of the day, there are worse things for a retailer than to be deeply rooted in your national soil as well as in the hearts and minds of local shoppers.
September 16, 2009

Aldi's slow start in Poland

Aldi Nord facade (photo: Georg Lukas)
International banner: The Aldi logo is heading east despite post-communist bureaucracy
Aldi North's expansion in neighbouring Poland is lagging far behind initial plans. A good year after entry, the German discount giant has only managed to open around 30 stores. "They are on no one's radar at the moment," says one local retail manager. The main problem seems to be the purchase of sufficiently large sites in the required quality. As rivals power away, can they catch up? According to Lebensmittel Zeitung information, Aldi has only secured around 120 sites to date. Difficulties with local bureaucracy exacerbate the situation. "They demand an authorization for everything," was one anonymous criticism heard recently in Aldi circles. Authorisations are not only required for the sale of spirits but also cover many other product groups. Despite these problems and the disappointing progress to date, Aldi North sees no reason to withdraw from Poland and firmly believes that it is never to late to enter a market.
August 27, 2009

Talk with Fisherman's Friend owners

Doreen and Tony Lofthouse (photo: Fisherman's Friend)
Doreen and Tony Lofthouse: "We love our business"
In a plastic age dominated by large numbers, interchangeable products and a general lack of authenticity, rewarding experiences are rare. However, you will not be short-changed when you meet people as genuine as Tony & Doreen Lofthouse, Joint-MD viz. Chairman of Lofthouse of Fleetwood Ltd, the company that makes the world-famous and tongue-numbing "Fisherman's Friend" lozenges. Corporate headquarters are situated on the outskirts of the quaint fishing village of Fleetwood/England on the Irish sea, just north of Blackpool, with a commanding view over Morecombe Bay. Among the peculiarities of this windy seaside resort are a double-decker tram, a lighthouse and seagulls that never seem to sleep – a quaint and quirky back-drop for one of the food industry's international success stories.
August 20, 2009

Wal-Mart Germany revisited

Walmart Germany (photo: Thomas Fedra)
Costly outing: Walmart's trip to Germany cost shareholders billions
For years, marketers have been trying to convince journalists that "retro" is the latest consumer fad. Still a recent cluster of comments on our German website, LZnet, did surprise. A number of readers reminisced about the good-old days when US retail behemoth Walmart, or Wal-Mart as it then was, strove to thrive on German soil. In fact, Walmart's incongruous, and ultimately very costly, guest appearance in "Old Europe" from 1997 to 2006 really does seem to have created a crowd of followers – at least in retrospect. In the interests of free speech, German Retail Blog is happy to translate this fan mail below for our international readers But may one dare to remind the romantics of what the Wal-Mart Germany fiasco was really like?
August 12, 2009

Media-Saturn challenges Best Buy

Roland Weise, CEO Media-Saturn (photo: Martin Hangen)
Wide world: Roland Weise throws down the gauntlet to Best Buy
Media-Saturn chief executive Roland Weise wants to oust US giant Best Buy from its position as the world's leading home electronics retailer. His optimism is buoyed by H1 results that have generally outfaced the current slowdown in the world economy. Media-Markt and sister company Saturn posted revenues of €8.7bn for the period – up 2.9 per cent. This surprising performance gives the lie to those pundits who had speculated that cyclical consumer goods businesses would be particularly badly hit in the global recession. But however one may admire Roland Weise's bullish stance and ambition, a closer look at Media-Saturn's international figures doesn't exactly underline his message. Weise wouldn't be Weise, however, if he didn't take issue with this statement in an interview with Lebensmittel Zeitung.
August 11, 2009

Tengelmann mulls new cuts

Karl-Erivan Haub, CEO Kaiser's Tengelmann (photo: Ludig Heimrath)
Karl-Erivan Haub: "Our supermarkets are not for sale"
Viewed over time, the Tengelmann story seems like a farewell in instalments. Less than two years ago, most of the former German retail giant's "Plus" discount stores were sold to rival Edeka. Now development manager Dr. Ulrike Biedeneck is said to have been charged with sounding out "options" for the group's 710 Kaiser's Tengelmann supermarkets. This story would at least have a certain logic on its side. With annual sales of around €2.5bn the Kaiser's Tengelmann outlets hardly provide enough critical mass for a potential buyer to compete with the big boys on Germany's highly concentrated market. Yet any such interpretation conflicts with a recent statement by Tengelmann CEO Karl-Erivan Haub. What then are we to believe?