Mr Ebrecht, you have been Managing Director of the family business Niemerszein GmbH & Co. KG since 2013. What are your plans for the future of the company?

One of our main goals is certainly to work with the family owners to secure the long-term future of the company and set the course for the handover to the next generation. We plan to continue to invest heavily in all our sites and to modernise on an ongoing basis. Last but not least, we would not be averse to taking over a larger store of around 2500 m² if we find the right property in the main Hamburg area.

The Niemerszein/Wiem family of entrepreneurs is known for its openness to innovation and the courage to try new things. Where does this willingness to experiment come from and to what extent do you think that the success of your stores is linked to the varied product range?

The Niemerszein/Wiem family has always had a great affinity for food. They are entrepreneurs through and through and together we try to keep the stores as up-to-date as possible by experimenting with lots of new things. It is an exciting challenge to master the balancing act of displaying as much product range as possible in a small space, always with an eye on innovation, regionality, locality, convenience and home-made food.

Our success is also due to the fact that we are very reliable in terms of product availability, range selection and we have highly qualified and motivated employees. Our aim is to ensure that our customers always find what they are looking for through our helpful staff and we advise them accordingly.

Many retail companies are currently suffering from an acute staff shortage. Are you feeling the same and, if so, how are you meeting this challenge?

Fortunately, there is no acute staff shortage at any of our locations. We have a constant number of employees, which currently stands at just over 500. Nevertheless, we are realising that it is becoming more difficult to inspire young people in certain areas where advisory skills are essential. Self-checkout is also an issue in this respect as for many people today the job at the checkout no longer offers any future security.

The majority of our applicants come via word of mouth, which still works the best. In addition to good pay and maximum holiday entitlement, we offer a wide range of benefits such as employee discounts, fitness, bike leasing allowance and much more. Last but not least, there is a good working atmosphere in all our stores, which is very important to us.

What role does the increasing digitalisation of retail play in your company?

Digitalisation definitely plays an important role. Since 2020, the year of the VAT reduction, we have converted all shops to digital labeling. We also only work with digital merchandise management systems, which makes handling all business processes much easier.

We are currently planning to implement self-checkouts, which is a challenge as we have little space in the checkout area and every centimeter is precious.

To date, Niemerszein GmbH & Co. KG has remodeled or redesigned 9 locations with Schweitzer. What do you value about this collaboration?

What we appreciate about working with Schweitzer is that we receive a complete package, from the planning phase through to implementation. The realisation from a single source is always on time and reliable, which for us is an important criteria for the success of a cooperation. We have been assigned the same construction manager for many years, who now knows us and understands what makes us tick. This is also a big advantage. Schweitzer knows our company and our environment, so each store can be planned individually and tailored to the respective requirements.

Have you seen an increase in sales after the remodelling?

Experience has shown us that it takes a few weeks after a remodelling for customers and employees to reorientate themselves. As a rule, we are then satisfied 3 to 6 months after the opening with the sales trend.

Schweitzer's sister company, the retail design agency Interstore, takes the creative lead in all your projects in close consultation with you and your customers. Did you feel involved in the design process?

Yes, definitely, especially as we do a thorough briefing before every major project. The experts from Interstore take a look at the surroundings of the respective location and assess the status quo: Who are our customers? Where and how do they live? After this briefing on our part, Interstore make an initial proposal for the materials using actual samples that we can view, touch and approve. Thanks to this intensive dialogue, we feel closely involved in the design process and contribute our suggestions and ideas. For us, this is a very good mix that has enabled us to achieve very good results with every project. It is particularly important that the store design contributes in creating a maximum feel-good atmosphere for us and of course our customers.