November 28, 2019

CEO Frans Muller talks Ahold Delhaize

Ahold Delhaize CEO Frans Muller (photo: Philipp von Bruchhausen)
(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...
November 28, 2019

Mayhem on the UK High Street

Scene on a UK High Street (photo: onflilm_iStock by getty images)
onflilm_iStock by getty images
Ready for the tumbleweed?
As most UK retailers prepare for a probably not so merry Christmas and further Brexit uncertainty, German trade visitors from across the North Sea look with astonishment at the numerous store closures on the once vibrant UK High Street. Those with any imagination, however, have no sense of schadenfreude. Although the online share of German retailing has not reached anywhere near UK levels, one doesn't exactly need a crystal ball to know in what direction things will inevitably go...
August 15, 2019

Face-to-face with Facebook in California

American dog, LZ summer tour II (photo: Javier Brosch/Shutterstock.com)
US summer tour: Part two (photo: Javier Brosch/Shutterstock.com)
On the second part of our annual summer tour, our newspaper spoke with Carolyn Everson, Vice President Global Marketing Solutions, at Facebook. With its communication platforms Instagram and WhatsApp, Facebook is one of the world's largest internet companies. Founded by eternally preppy Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook has mainly used advertising to nearly quintuple annual revenues from $12.5bn to $55.8bn over the last five years. Net earnings have grown even more extravagantly from $2.9bn to $22.1bn during the same period. But what would any Silicon Valley tech giant be these days without a good old-fashioned scandal? Facebook has not failed us and has duly broken the 11th commandment: 'Thou shalt not get found out.'
July 26, 2019

Carrefour-Casino and the elephant marriage

Elephant marriage (photo: nattanan726/Shutterstock)
Elephant marriage (photo: nattanan726/Shutterstock)
The mating of elephants is a surprisingly delicate business. These pachyderms are said to be exceedingly coy and, despite their huge size, take fright easily. The same would seem to apply to French retail giants Carrefour and Casino who are believed to have had a tiff on their first date last autumn. If trade gossip is to be believed, Carrefour CEO Alexandre Bompard and Jean-Charles Naouri, the main shareholder of Casino, met at the home of illustrious matchmaker Alain Minc...
July 4, 2019

Searching for Google in Silicon Valley

American dog (photo: Javier Brosch/Shutterstock)
US summer tour: Part one (photo: Javier Brosch/Shutterstock)
Despite Donald Trump, escalating trade wars and tough competition, the sheer size of the American retail market never fails to attract. According to the Food Marketing Institute, the US counts 38,300 stores, 4.8 million employees and annual sales north of $700bn. America is also a melting pot of ideas and home to so many Silicon Valley innovators who have forged today's digital revolution. As part of an annual summer tour, our newspaper visited the land of seemingly endless opportunity and Big Tech. The first meeting was with Google for a chat with Daniel Alegre, President for Strategic Partnerships in Commerce & Retail, at global headquarters in Mountain View, California...
June 7, 2019

Shanghai welcomes Aldi!

Aldi Shanghai, store front (photo: Andrew Meredith)
Andrew Meredith
Aldi goes Chinese
Thought our readers would like to see some photos of Aldi's first two stores in the People's Republic of China. The German value merchant opened up for business this morning in Shanghai. We also managed to glean a few statements from country manager Christoph Schwaiger via WeChat in between paring the cheese, counting the olives, and swabbing down the counters. Meanwhile, if you go shopping in China's largest city, please don't forget to drop us a line...
May 29, 2019

Aldi gets physical in China

Aldi Shanghai at Jingan Sports & Fitness Center (photo: LZ picture archives)
LZ
Upmarket location: Aldi is celebrating its debut in China as a tenant at the Jingan Sports & Fitness Center
In only days from now Aldi will be starting business in the People's Republic. The German discount giant's first store will open in Shanghai on June 7. According to information obtained by our newspaper, a further nine outlets will follow there soon. The first two sites, one of which includes a tenancy in the Jingan Sports & Fitness Center, are in noticeably prosperous neighbourhoods. Although Aldi is said to want to proceed cautiously during the pilot phase, we expect the medium-term store count to reach 50 to 100 in order to obtain the necessary economies of scale. Persons who claim to be familiar with the concept describe it as "more modern than company stores in Europe". Under the slogan 'Everyday value – Handpicked for you', the global discount pioneer will be offering a considerably more upmarket proposition than at any of its other nine foreign operations. The convenience-oriented assortment will apparently feature many import goods from Europe, including the dairy products and cosmetics much loved by Chinese consumers. This represents a major departure from long-established company practice.
April 17, 2019

Europe's Top 50 retail stars

Winner of the trophy (photo: Annette Shaff_Shutterstock)
Annette Shaff_Shutterstock
Who won the European retail cup in 2018?
If this were football, Schwarz Group would be FC Barcelona, Real Madrid or ManUnited. The owner of German discounters Lidl and Kaufland has again won the European retail cup, as compiled by Frankfurt-based analyst platform LZ Retailytics, with whopping annual gross sales of €113bn in 2018. French giant Carrefour is still runner-up, but has continued to lose ground to Aldi. UK grocer Tesco, supercharged by the purchase of leading local wholesaler Booker, stays number four. German supermarket giants Edeka and Rewe thrive in fifth viz. sixth place. With the exception of Metro, whose sales were burdened by currency rates in Mother Russia, all eight German players in the Top 50 league have continued to grow, with five of them among the Top 10. In an industry that has become, for better or worse, a game of large numbers, this isn't particularly remarkable. Germany is, after all, the biggest market in western Europe. So were there no surprises in all this sexy trade data?
April 4, 2019

Lidl culls its bigwigs, but can't stop growing

You're fired! (photo: ojogabonitoo/iStock by Getty)
ojogabonitoo/iStock by Getty
You're fired!
It used to be fun being one of the boss men, but not if you work at Schwarz Group these days. Klaus Gehrig, the powerful figure running the German retail giant founded by secretive entrepreneur Dieter Schwarz, seems to revel in home-made creative disruption. In increasingly frequent purges the 70-year-old corporate veteran regularly gives his top brass the chop, regardless of their sales achievements. No one is sacrosanct and no one is spared, if they question the general partner's structural changes...
March 12, 2019

Could this be Brexit breakthrough week?

Brexit jigsaw (photo: destina_fotolia)
Brexit jigsaw puzzle (photo: destina_fotolia)
If all goes to chaotic plan, we are now only days away from a potentially 'hard' Brexit. This will bring either freedom or Armageddon depending on your point of view. Many retailers didn't want to talk about such a divisive subject for their customers and staff, even off-the-record. This is understandable as the UK's current torment is completely out of their hands. Although we are convinced that Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn secretly read German Retail Blog, we also couldn't find a politician who wanted to chat. This is most unusual for a generally loquacious breed, especially as we also offered them tea and scones. On the eve of three House of Commons votes this week, we therefore turned to a prominent legal-eagle for some enlightenment. One well-known commentator in both media and academia is Thom Brooks, Professor of Law & Government at Durham University. So we asked him to get out his intellectual machete and hack a path through the Brexit jungle...