ECR GAINING IN EUROPE

PARIS -- Efficient Consumer Response has traveled across the Atlantic to find a strong response in Europe.European supermarket operators are now embracing the U.S.-born concept with their own special spin, according to Etienne Laurent, president and chief executive officer of CIES, The Food Business Forum, here. But the dynamics of achieving efficiencies and the potential rewards are quite different

PARIS -- Efficient Consumer Response has traveled across the Atlantic to find a strong response in Europe.

European supermarket operators are now embracing the U.S.-born concept with their own special spin, according to Etienne Laurent, president and chief executive officer of CIES, The Food Business Forum, here. But the dynamics of achieving efficiencies and the potential rewards are quite different in Europe, Laurent stressed.

"ECR Europe has been born, and we are very excited about it," said Laurent in an interview. "If critical mass on ECR is reached in Europe, it will benefit the whole industry."

Laurent was interviewed in advance of CIES' Annual Executive Congress, which will be held June 22 to 24 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The program will attract retailers and suppliers from around the world, many of whom are grappling with issues ranging from generating higher efficiencies to improving consumer marketing.

Laurent said the estimated industrywide savings in Europe would be 2.3% to 3.4% of retail sales, which is lower than savings for the United States because Europe is already more efficient.

CIES, along with other associations and operators, is playing a major role in making ECR a reality in Europe. The program was launched last July by operators and groups including CIES; AIM, the Brussels, Belgium-based European Association of Industries of Branded Products; and Eurocommerce, the lobbying arm of the retail and wholesale trade, also based in Brussels. The early focus is on efficient replenishment and electronic data interchange, and the ECR participants are also working to improve logistics involving pallets.

The upcoming CIES show will draw some 1,000 to 1,100 attendees worldwide, with a strong showing from retailers and suppliers. Attendees will represent more than 30 nationalities, with the heaviest attendance from Europe, North America and Japan. These executives are typically CEOs or members of senior management. Speakers at this year's event include Daniel Bernard, CEO of Carrefour, France; Dr. Hans Christian Bremme, managing director of Tengelmann, Germany; Richard J. Currie, president and CEO of Loblaw Cos., Canada; Thomas Mienl, deputy chairman of Julius Meinl AG, Austria; Brian Mulroney, former prime minister of Canada; and Bill Gates, chairman and CEO of Microsoft, United States. The theme of this year's convention is "Consumer Renaissance: The Knowledge Buyers," which refers to the consumer's increasing sophistication and infinite whims and demands, Laurent said.