Blog: Hope springs eternal at Lindt, Metro Group
Dean Best | 22 March 2010
You know it's approaching Easter when, walking to Lindt & Sprungli's offices in Zurich, you see a giant rabbit sitting on the lawn and Easter eggs nestling in the trees outside the Swiss firm's HQ.
There is a spirit of renewal at the upmarket chocolatier after a challenging 2009. Last week, Lindt reported plunging full-year profits as the downturn hit demand for its premium products - and as cocoa prices and US restructuring costs hit the bottom line.
However, even with the bulk of Lindt's press conference being held in German, just-food could sense an upbeat mood at Lindt, with CEO Ernst Tanner repeating his belief in the "great potential" of markets like the UK and the US.
Speaking to just-food after the conference, marketing director Uwe Sommer echoed his boss' confidence. Sommer insisted that Lindt was one of a few premium businesses to prosper in the US in 2009 and was "bullish" about the UK this year.
You can read more of our coverage on Lindt's prospects this week but there was no mistaking the company's confidence about the year ahead, even when consumer confidence remains fragile.
German retail giant Metro Group also adopted a confident air last week after a turbulent year. Metro claimed it expects to see a "tangible" increase in profits in 2010 despite posting a drop in earnings for 2009.
CEO Dr Eckhard Cordes insisted a focus on international expansion, coupled with its Shape 2012 cost-cutting programme, would drive earnings this year. Dr Cordes, meanwhile, also announced a shake-up of its struggling wholesale unit Metro Cash & Carry.
The moves, the Metro boss claimed, would help the business meet a higher "medium-term" target for profit growth, which the retailer lifted from 8% to 10%. However, not everyone was convinced, with one analyst saying the increased guidance was a "red herring" designed to distract from the "disappointing profit for the year".
In the UK, Peter Marks, the ebullient boss of UK retailer The Co-operative Group, is hardly ever lost for words and last week he was as combative as ever after the company posted bumper 2009 figures.
Speaking to just-food, Marks said the Co-op was ready for more competition in its core convenience channel, telling the likes of Sainsbury's and Morrisons to "bring it on".
This week, one of those retailers, Sainsbury's, issues its latest sales figures and chief executive Justin King, one of the more media-savvy executives in UK retail, will likely issue his own rallying cry as the country's grocers battle for share of the growing convenience sector.
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