OBI co-founder touts furniture in home centers
Cologne, Germany Manfred Maus, the co-founder of OBI, Germany’s largest home center, pointed to furniture as the next big frontier of DIY retailing. On the show floor of the International Hardware Fair/Practical World in Cologne, Germany, Maus also pointed to a growing importance in Germany of service over price.
Maus, who officially retired from OBI in 2004, maintains an ambassadorial role with the company. OBI operates more than 330 stores in Germany, and more than 500 throughout Europe.
Asked to describe the changing retail landscape in Europe, Maus described Germany as the “world champion of discounts.” However, the growing importance of female customers is causing something of a shift, as service and quality are brought to the forefront, he said.
“Women are important, and women are different,” he said, discussing a European trend that trails the women-friendly retailing approach prevalent in the United States. “They decide whether we are going to buy a new kitchen, whether we are decorating. They need service, they need help, and this we learned in the last few years -- price is not everything.”
Pointing to the observation that the best OBI stores are in Moscow, operating next door to IKEA stores, Maus described great potential for the combination of furniture and DIY.
“I’m not talking about adding a 20,000-square-meter IKEA and a 10,000-square-meter OBI to make a 30,000-square-meter store,” he said. “What I mean is to build a complete center under one roof, but telling the customer we are competent in paint, we are competent in lumber, we are competent in ceramic tiles, we are competent in tools, and also having a competence in furniture.”
He said no retail company is doing that well today.
“I think this is the future because we have too many home improvement stores that all look alike,” Maus said.
OBI (pronounced oh-bee) was founded in 1970.