Cologne, Germany — In the hallway connecting the multiple levels of show floors here at the sprawling Koelnmesse exhibition center, Manfred Maus, the famous pioneer of German home center retailing and founder of OBI, is pacing while talking on his cell phone. He later tells a reporter that home centers maybe should rethink their model.
On an escalator going up, John Herbert, the secretary of the European DIY-Retail Association, is promoting European retailing in a general way to a reporter going down. Stores on the continent are getting better, he said, but they still can learn a lot from U.S. retailers’ commitment to customer service.
And elsewhere on the show floor, Frank Blake is spotted. Not in person, but on a magazine cover, proclaiming in German: “Den Turnaround Geschafft.” Translated: “The turnaround is finished.” It’s not something that Blake or anyone else in Atlanta would say, but we’re not in Atlanta. We’re in Cologne, Germany.
This ancient city on the Rhine hosted some 53,500 trade visitors from 130 countries for the 2012 Internationale Eisenwarenmesse, or International Hardware Fair. The four-day event also attracted 2,665 suppliers from 50 countries.
Those numbers are up from 2010 but down from 2008, when the every-other-year-show co-located with a DIY-focused Practical World event. And even with an occasional language barrier, there is no shortage of notebook entries for the English-speaking reporter.
• Maus is easy to identify with his mane of white hair, especially as he gestures while speaking on his cell phone between halls. When he hangs up, he is ambushed for an interview.
On the need for a new business model: “My children and my grandchildren will buy completely different than we buy. After 40 years of a retail concept, somebody has to sit down and find out what has to be done. “
On store size: “The question is, do we need a 15,000-square-meter or 25,000-square-meter store. I think it’s just too much.”
On the shifting power of retail merchandising: “Years ago I was always impressed about retail merchandising in the U.S. Today, I feel we in Europe ha