Seen from other continents, Europe may be mistaken for 1 country. Well, it isn’t.
Have you worked in Europe a lot?
Yes. Working all over Europe has been a constant element in our careers. Hans did internships and started his career in London. Karin studied in Britain and did internships in German. Rik did internships in Berlin. We have worked in Britain and continental Europe for 3 decades now. Often for companies operating within one country, but often following our client’s cross-border expansion and activities.
Do you speak the languages?
Quite a few. Dutch of course, which is our native language. That allows us to communicate in Flemish as well, as it is a Dutch dialect. We’re pretty fluent in German, which is important in countries like Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In French we can get by pretty okay for our work. Reading retail in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese is sufficient to get by. Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Finnish or Russian are beyond our capabilities. We need interpreters there.
How far along the trend of retail-development is Europe?
Pretty far. Europe is home to many of the world’s largest retailers. Think of Tesco, Ahold, Aldi, Lidl, Carrefour, H&M, Zara and many others. Their development has created a sophisticated retail environment, which attracts top-talent. The same is true for car-manufacturers. Europe is their home ground, and they pioneer new retail-developments there. The continent which is home to these global giants such as still knows huge differences between nations. We have come to understand the often crucial differences through our projects in 21 european countries.
What’s the special challenge for international retailers in Europe?
The inability to adapt to local conditions has been the downfall for many international retailers who want to enter Europe. But also European players who tried to cross borders within their own continent often under-estimate the need for adapting to local rules, while still retaining as much as possible of their own assets. What to think of Germany where 43% of the daily goods market is in their hands of hard discounters? That is quite challenging, to say the least.
Can you name a project in Europe that you are particularly proud of?
Lets select three. We made German Rewe merge its eight supermarket chains within half a year which has made it into the successful company it is now. Jyske Bank from Denmark did us proud by adopting our complete retail banking format almost undiluted, with great success. Our work for Dutch Post has been the example for post offices around the world.