March 28, 2003
Patrick Ricard: "We never dilute our brands" (photo: Pernod Ricard)
There are worse fates than going to lunch in Paris with the charming and beautiful niece of the largest shareholder in a global drinks company. Regrettably, this was purely for business purposes as the lady is head of press at Pernod Ricard and simply doing her job. Afterwards, and equally regrettably, uncle and CEO Patrick Ricard only offered coffee at the group's elegant headquarters in the City of Light's well-heeled 16th arrondissement. Ricard is nothing if not a man of business. The interview kept strictly to theme and subject: the consistent global positioning of brands – and no price dumping. Under his aegis Pernod Ricard has pursued an aggressive acquisitions strategy and risked high gearing levels on the way. But the group has always managed to reduce these over time...until the next buying opportunity comes along.
March 14, 2002
Cees van der Hoeven: "The heavy load of exceptionals isn't something to be proud of" (photo: Ahold)
The ever-optimistic and enthusiastic Cees van der Hoeven is always "excited" about some new project. Certainly the Chief Executive Officer of Royal Ahold N.V. is nothing if not ambitious. His spending spree at the helm of the historic Dutch grocer since 1993 has catapulted the public limited company into the big league. Ahold now ranks as the world's number two retailer by sales after Wal-Mart. Over the last decade, van der Hoeven has given our newspaper an interview virtually every year at head office in Zaandam, near Amsterdam. Each time Ahold has become an even more global, diversified and complex group. Few big retail bosses talk about doubling annual revenues and net earnings every five years, and still fewer actually achieve this. However, a new note of caution has crept into van der Hoeven's fluent and cosmopolitan repartee recently, and Ahold's relentless pace of internationalisation has come to a sharp halt. We wanted to know why.
October 9, 2001
Not every expansion eastwards is as easy as it may have appeared at first
In May 1997, I.T.M. Entreprises S.A. (Intermarché) took a majority stake in moribund German retailer Spar HandelsAG. Since then, the acquisition has not stopped haemorrhaging money. The leading French retailer co-operative by sales is now bogged down in a morass of heavy restructuring and modernisation costs. Caveat emptor? On a visit to Spar HQ in Schenefeld, near Hamburg, Intermarché president Pierre Gourgeon, Spar CEO Dr. Fritz Ammann, and Intermarché general secretary Alain Rocher insisted to our newspaper that the company had not acquired a pig-in-the-poke and that it wishes to remain in Germany. Meanwhile, financial investors Klaus-Peter Schneidewind & Co. must be laughing all the way to the bank. As the three musketeers talked about the German horror trip with a studied lack of buyer's remorse, it would be difficult to imagine a more desperate-looking set of businessmen. Despite their breaking into ever new choruses of Edith Piaf's 'Non, je ne regrette rien', an outside observer may perforce reflect on how bitter an aftertaste just one false move in international retailing can leave.
October 9, 2001
On the road in Germany: Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy (photo: Kingfisher)
Regarded by some as a living legend, quiet-spoken Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy, Group Chief Executive of Kingfisher plc, is surprisingly unpretentious. In fact, his easy-going way makes it hard to understand why he has polarised City opinion during his long career in retailing. This is a man, who was praised to the hilt for turning around what was once FW Woolworth. He then fell like an angel from City grace, only to be returned to relative favour recently. Mulcahy has now split Kingfisher into two separate companies so that the new group can focus on international expansion. Was that his reason for a recent trip to Germany?
July 1, 2000
Mother and daughter: Our German B2B newspaper, Lebensmittel Zeitung, in print and digital form
Welcome to German Retail Blog, the English online platform of Lebensmittel Zeitung, Germany's leading retail & fmcg trade newspaper. Its mission is to make the first-class material that has already been published in our German print edition available to a broader English-speaking online audience. German Retail Blog provides original comment on and analysis of global retailing and the fmcg industry. We also offer a free newsletter service to all subscribers. As the title German Retail Blog implies, the posts essentially track trends in German retailing. However, the strong internationalisation of local retailers and suppliers inevitably demands detailed coverage beyond national borders...