Migros worried by Lidl in Switzerland
Herbert Bolliger: "We'll never sell below cost price"
It could all have been such a happy little paradise for those who want to enjoy their gold bullion discreetly and securely.
But, however, those horrid German discounters have set up shop and are making the place affordable for Joe Average.
Is nothing sacred anymore? One bastion is crumbling after another: first it was banking secrecy and now retailing.
Once upon a time, life was so cosy for Migros and Coop Schweiz in Swiss retailing, and the good Swiss burghers were obliged to pay their prices.
But now German discounters are spreading throughout the country and ruining the party. Who let the alley cats out and set them among the pigeons?
Since Aldi's arrival in October 2005 Switzerland's retail elite has oscillated between demonstrative nonchalance and periodic fits of blue funk when it comes to dealing with hard discounters from over the border.
The latest show of nerves comes from Migros CEO Herbert Bolliger.
Market leader in decline
The market leader with annual revenues of 21.5bn Swiss francs ($14.2bn) has just reduced guidance for 2009. Growth will be halved to 1 per cent.
Bolliger gives a number of reasons for this decline. These include a significant fall in the export of Migros own label products, furniture and clothing sales as well as generally lower prices.
However, Bolliger also accuses German hard discounter Lidl of price dumping fresh produce.
Considering that Lidl has only opened 20 stores since its arrival in the alpine republic in March, this is a bit like Goliath getting hot under the collar of his tunic when David is still an embryo.
Even Aldi Suisse, with just under 100 stores and estimated annual revenues of 900m Swiss francs ($594m), is five times as big as Lidl Schweiz.
But, at the end of the day, Bolliger is probably right to want to scotch the snake as quickly as possible. France's retail oligopoly paid a high price for underestimating German hard discounters after Aldi arrived in 1988.
And didn't that admirer of Switzerland, Victor Hugo, once proclaim: "There is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come"?
Related article in German: Lebensmittel Zeitung, no. 28, 10.07.2009, by Hans-Jürgen Schulz