Retail giant Migros appoints new boss

Migros boss Bolliger will be keeping an eye on the competition's prices, too. Migros

Migros, Switzerland’s largest retail chain and the country’s largest employer, has appointed company veteran Herbert Bolliger as its new boss.

This content was published on October 29, 2004

The announcement came on the same day that a major new competitor unveiled more details of its plans to open discount stores across Switzerland.

Claude Hauser, chairman of the nationwide Migros federation, said on Friday that Bolliger, 51, had been chosen “by a large majority” to replace Anton Scherrer as president of its general management team – the equivalent of CEO.

“Herbert Bolliger possesses all the qualities that a top manager of a large company requires,” added Hauser.

“He oversaw the successful merger of Aare/Solothurn and Bern [two regional branches] and is now achieving outstanding financial results. He will lead Migros on its continuing road to success.”

Bolliger, who began his career with German pharma company Bayer, joined Migros in 1983 and held successive posts in a number of regional branches before being appointed managing director of the Aare branch in 1998.

Outgoing Migros boss Scherrer, who was appointed in 2001, said he would resign earlier this year, but today’s announcement ends ongoing speculation about who would replace him.

Migros is Switzerland’s largest domestic employer, offering the equivalent of about 60,000 full-time jobs.

It is also the largest Swiss company in terms of annual domestic turnover, and the eighth largest in terms of worldwide turnover – behind manpower services giant Adecco and Zurich-based engineering group ABB.

Aldi sets out stall

Bolliger took over on the same day that German discount giant Aldi unveiled details of its plans to attack the Swiss retail market, which is largely dominated by Migros and number two Coop.

A spokesman told a media conference on Friday that Aldi would build two distribution centres to serve the Swiss market by 2006 – at Domdidier in canton Fribourg and Embrach in canton Zurich.

He added that Aldi was now engaged in “concrete” discussions about plans to build between 30 to 40 stores in French-speaking Switzerland, but named no specific locations.

Plans for Aldi stores in German-speaking Switzerland are more advanced, with permits obtained for Weinfelden and Amriswil in canton Thurgau and Alternheim in canton St Gallen.

Further applications have been lodged for Romanshorn (Thurgau), Gebenstorf (Aargau), Pfäffikon (Zurich) and Küssnacht am Rigi (Schwyz).

Market analysts say Aldi – and rival Lidl – represent a real threat to the position of Migros and Coop, because of their low prices for basic goods.

However, they add that “structural” factors such as high land prices will probably prevent them repeating the overwhelming market dominance they have achieved in Germany.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Migros is organised as a national federation of regional branches.
In tribute to founder Gottlieb Duttweiler, it sells neither alcohol nor tobacco and spends one per cent of turnover on promoting culture.
Aldi belongs to German brothers Theo and Karl Albrecht – Germany’s richest men with a combined fortune equivalent to SFr47 billion ($39 billion).

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In brief

Migros veteran Herbert Bolliger will succeed Anton Scherrer as the retail giant’s new boss.

One of Bolliger’s main challenges will be how to retain market share in the face of plans by foreign discount stores to wage a major price war within Switzerland.

Germany’s Aldi has just announced the construction of two Swiss distribution centres.

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