Annegret Krüger, since 2004 Member of the akzenta Management Board, responsible for Marketing & Communication.
Interview with Annegret Krüger, Managing Partner akzenta Wuppertal, Germany
The Hans Löbbert GmbH & Co. KG in Wuppertal has four grocery stores sized between 2,000 and 3,000 square meters. Thanks to its akzenta name, it barely registers that the company belongs to the Rewe Group. Rewe even holds the majority, but many articles actually do not come from Rewe. With 60,000 items and an unusually high turnover rate, a distinct store concept is needed: the store should look great, yet the shelves, freezers and sales counters also have to be quickly refillable. Freshness is important, only five percent of the merchandise is non-food items.
At the recent vote for the “Supermarket of the Year” by the German trade magazine”Lebensmittel Praxis“(“Food Practices”) you did not make it to the winner’s podium. Are you disappointed?
Of course we are, because a dream that we came so very close to, did not come true for our associates. That said, the competition was also very good and that is why we can live with this result. What is special about our market is the huge selection, the very high turnover rate by sales area, our deli counters with our own produced items, our top quality as well as our employees who in connection with over 60 services simply manage to make our customers feel very comfortable with us. All of this makes a difference.
Straight aisles, wide and well lit provide a high turnover ratio and are family-friendly
Another success came easier: you were distinguished as being family-friendly. What did you have to do for that?
We have certified all of our markets at the same time by the HDE (=the German Retail Federation) in 2011. We did not have to do much for this, since we have been family-friendly for a long time and offer older people, disabled persons and families a friendly shopping environment.
What importance does merchandise decoration have?
It is important that our customers feel comfortable at our stores. The shopping experience should be enjoyable and take place in a timely manner. This includes that a market is clean and tidy, the merchandise is on the shelves and available. It is also important to us that the merchandise shines and is well lit. We also try to decoratively showcase our goods. However, due to our high number of customers, we can only do this moderately. The maintenance process would just be too extensive. Redecorating and restocking of merchandise simply takes a lot of time.
To be able to quickly restock shelves, supplies are on top of several shelves.
Up to 30,000 customers in one of your stores every week: which store layout do you prefer?
We prefer a clear store layout without frills. You can pass easily through the aisles, which creates transparency. The design is clean and simple; the merchandise is the focal point and has to have an effect on people. In order for us to be able to display all 60,000 items and not have any gaps on the shelves, we have tall shelves and on top of them, a small storage area for quick and easy restocking. In addition, we have our own employees on the sales floor all day to keep restocking the shelves.
Annegret Krüger is proud of the service counters featuring the company’s own products, top quality and the company’s employees.
What role models do you have and where do you get your ideas for your store design?
Just like everybody else, we also drive around and look at the many other amazing supermarkets that are everywhere. That is when you get an inspiration or two. Our own ideas and wishes are added to this. Incidentally, these ideas also come from customers and employees. This mix and a great sense for the clientele on location then leads to a custom result in store design for every single store.
At akzenta Steinbeck, you chose meat counters in gray and black. A good choice?
Yes, the customers were excited. It looks very chic, elegant, and fits with our clientele that shops there. The colors of the merchandise “pop” against the color of the counters and make the articles look amazing.
Customer contact is important: despite high customer volumes, akzenta does not want self-service cash registers and self-scanning.
We still have traditional cash registers, but we have lots of them. We keep checking that there are never more than three customers waiting in line at the registers and we manage to do this practically all the time. This is very important for us, since the cash register is the last point and one of only a few in the markets where you have direct contact with the customer. We get feedback and the human aspect should not be underestimated. The people come to our market to have a little chat. We even have customers who wait for “their” cashier until he/she comes back from their break. akzenta is a family and our customers are a part of this family. That is why we deliberately do not have any self-service cash registers and no self-scanning.
Corporate social responsibility is getting more and more important in large companies. What are you doing in terms of social commitment?
A lot. Last year in Wuppertal, we supported more than 300 facilities and are always open to various campaigns in town. Last year we bought “I love Wuppertal” buttons for all employees and also sold some to customers. All of the proceeds went to charity. Boy scouts for example are also allowed to sell their cookies in our stores or the Lions can collect for the Wuppertaler Tafel (Wuppertal Food Bank). As a local company, we feel very connected to Wuppertal and therefore responsible to be active in this area and very much like to do this.
What is next for akzenta?
We still have some ideas that we want to implement in the coming days, which strengthen customer loyalty even further. We also have to keep remodeling to keep the stores attractive.
Interview by René Schellbach, EuroShop.de
Annegret Krüger introduces the akzenta Markt (market) in Wuppertal-Steinbeck in a video
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