July 13, 2017

German retailers sell to the world

The globe (photo: WavebreakmediaMicro_Fotolia)
Future customers: And when you grow up, you too will be able to shop at a German retailer...
For a country with just 1 per cent of the world's population Germany's retailers aren't doing a bad job at selling their wares on the global marketplace. LZ Retailytics data show that eleven retail groups posted record gross revenues totalling €190bn last year in 41 foreign countries on four continents.

This whopping sum is around three-and-a-half times more than leading grocer Edeka achieves on its home market.

German retailers began their international expansion in the late 1960's and have been gaining momentum ever since. The principal pioneers were Metro Cash & Carry and hard discounters Aldi and Lidl. But who else is conquering the world from Frisco to Sydney?

Lidl opens in the US in June 2017 (photo: Jon Springer_Supermarkt News)
Jon Springer_Supermarkt News
Lidl USA: Grand opening on the East Coast
Today's heroes also number former Metro Group entertainment electronics subsidiary MediaMarktSaturn, which demerged today on the Frankfurt stock exchange; hypermarket operators Globus and Kaufland (Schwarz Group); discounters Penny (Rewe Group) and Norma; supermarket multiple Billa (Rewe Group); specialist wholesaler Lekkerland; as well as drugstore giants Rossmann, dm and Müller.

The leader of the pack, accounting for nearly a third of all German retailer sales abroad, is Schwarz Group. The private company's Lidl and Kaufland subsidiaries posted revenues of around €61bn in 26 European countries outside the borders of Germany.

Schwarz Group may not be quite so exotic yet as Metro Cash & Carry whose empire stretches far into Asia. But Lidl's start in the US last month, Kaufland's plans to enter Australia shortly, and a new website in China reveal the scope of corporate global ambition.

Europe Top 10 Countries (photo: Fotolia; graphic design: Gudrun Kiender)
Fotolia; Gudrun Kiender
Europe: The ten countries with the highest penetration by German retailers with market shares of the two largest players in per cent
The following ten countries are most important for German retailers in declining order of sales: The USA, France, Austria, the UK, the Netherlands, Poland, Italy, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Spain (cf. chart).

Ranked by the number of retailers actively involved in the country concerned, the list changes to Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Croatia, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Rumania.

A question of perspective

The colossal revenues achieved by German retailers abroad translate to some significant stakes in smaller neighbouring countries. Rewe Group subsidiary Billa and Aldi South already have a 29-per-cent viz. 15.2-per-cent market share in Austria, while Lidl/Kaufland and Rewe hold 27.2 per cent and 14.3 per cent, respectively, in the Czech Republic.

USA (photo: Fotolia; graphic design: Gudrun Kiender)
Fotolia; Gudrun Kiender
USA: Estimated gross annual revenues and market shares of Trader Joe's and Aldi South
But even estimated annual sales of around €12.1bn at Trader Joe's (bought by Aldi North founder Theo Albrecht senior in 1979) and €11.6bn at Aldi South amount to only around 1.7 per cent each on the US market. Likewise, Metro Group's net revenues of around €2.7bn in China equate to a mere 0.1 per cent.

Nice to meet you, again

Meanwhile, German retailers look set to grow their global reach. Aldi South is about to start in Italy and recently went online in The People's Republic of China. Lidl intends to invest €1bn per annum in the United States, which has forced arch-rival Aldi USA into expansion overdrive. Both Schwarz Group and Aldi South are destined soon to meet Down Under.

Asia (photo: Fotolia; graphic design: Gudrun Kiender)
Fotolia; Gudrun Kiender
Asia: Metro is still the only German pioneer
All retailers obviously remain extremely evasive when asked about their future international expansion plans. This reticence has only increased since giants such as Carrefour and Tesco have been obliged to prune their overseas empires in recent years.

This phenomenon, of course, also provides chances. Should, for instance, Tesco exit Eastern Europe, as many pundits have long speculated, all or part of the store base could be used to boost organic expansion.

German retail influence in Asia remains relatively light. The only player of significance with active operations there as per the end of last year was Metro Group, while grocers have given this mighty continent a very wide berth.

Australia (photo: Fotolia; graphic design: Gudrun Kiender)
Fotolia; Gudrun Kiender
Australia: €5bn in gross sales and a 10 per cent market share for Aldi
Although the Dusseldorf-based company defines Asia in its own specific way, our newspaper has computed total net sales in the region for The People's Republic of China, India, Japan, Kasachstan, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey at €9.4bn. This is no mean achievement by anyone's standards, but in no way can Metro be called a dominating factor.

Strangely, given the huge populations and exciting growth potential involved, German retailers have been happy to leave Latin America and Africa to their French and US competitors to date. Presumably they were discouraged by partially high country risks, including corruption. It cannot be the distance, otherwise neither Schwarz Group or Aldi would be in Australia today.

So perhaps it won't be so very long before we have an Aldi in South Africa, a Lidl in Mexico or a Metro Cash & Carry in Kenya?

N.B. Readers are referred to an excellent interactive chart (paywall), compiled by online editors Jörn Ratering & Marco Kitzmann, showing the annual sales and national market shares of eleven German retailers in 41 countries worldwide.

Podcast microphone (photo: Gerhard Seybert-Fotolia)
Gerhard Seybert-Fotolia

Podcast. Click arrow to listen to an audio version of the text:

Lebensmittel Zeitung with digital sister (photo: LZ)
photo: LZ
Our German retail B2B newspaper, Lebensmittel Zeitung, in print & digital
Read in German:
 'Im Ausland läuft Lidl allen Wettbewerbern davon' by international editor Mike Dawson on page 10 of Lebensmittel Zeitung, no. 28, 14.07.2017. Thanks also to LZ Retailytics analysts Frauke Vor dem Berge and Matthias Queck as well as to graphic designer Gudrun Kiender.

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