Guido Korn has been a regular visitor to the IAW since the very first International Trade Fair for Retail Promotions and Imports in 2005. Guido, who is celebrating 20 years since his company Centershop was founded, is always looking out for strong selling trend-led and seasonal merchandise. In this interview he explains why the IAW is so good for this purpose and why his company is so keen to be here.
Guido Korn, you were one of the first visitors to this event. How does Centershop benefit from your presence at the IAW?
Centershop sells promotional products as well as surplus stock and specializes in seasonal products in the food and nonfood segments. Even the name of International Trade Fair for Retail Promotions and Imports shows that it was made for us. It delivers exactly what my company with its buying partner Wreesmann needs – top-selling products for every season, surplus stock and new trendsetters for our 120 outlets.
Has the IAW changed much over the last 30 trade fairs?
Of course! Firstly, it is now much bigger than the early events held in Hannover. It is somehow more professional: whether it’s the exhibitors or on the organizational side. Everything is more colourful in the most positive way – the range of products, the international participation and the supporting program. The great thing is that this development has not been one-sided – it has been achieved in a dialogue involving all trade fair stakeholders.
So overall, what is the essence of the IAW for you?
First and foremost the chance to order products on the spot. On the first day of the trade show my buyers and I always try to identify the best offers for promotions, on the second we look for product ranges in the different segments. That always works quite well. On the third day – and this typifies the IAW – we focus more on networking. At every trade fair I always meet new suppliers and trade partners from all over the world.
Please complete this sentence: “without the IAW…”.
Centershop would not be where it is today without the IAW and would not benefit from the many ways in which the trade fair boosts sales. It was the IAW TRENDSELLER PRODUCT AWARD that drew my attention to the Fidget Spinner. We placed orders on the spot. It was a three-month wonder, a trend that passed, but it generated sales. It was a classic example of quick turnaround products.
In your long experience of the IAW, surely it’s not all about being serious and doing business?
Of course not – there is always a lot to laugh about. And there’s no denying that the exhibitor parties are something we all look forward to. Irrespective of how much we celebrated the night before we can get down to business the next day. At one IAW there was such a wonderful choice of chocolate products that three of my buyers independently bought up stock – Centershop was soon selling masses of chocolate.
What was it like in the early days of Centershop?
Back in my student days, when I took my degree in business management, I went to local markets and noted how stock would be sold cheaply, especially at the end of the year. So I decided to rent ice-cream parlours that closed in winter to sell surplus stock. It went so well I could afford to rent premises and sell all year round: thus Centershop was born.
How has your company developed over the past 20 years?
Centershop has grown steadily. Our first outlet had a sales area of no more than 70 to 100 m² and only a small amount of discontinued lines, clearance and surplus stock. Today we have outlets of 700 to 3000 m² offering more than 20,000 items in every product segment.
There were two milestones in our company history: one was shifting from shops in pedestrian shopping areas to locations accessible by car. This also allowed us to display stock outdoors in front of the store. The other was the hugely successful cooperation with Wreesmann Sonderpostenmärkte which led to our buyer’s association and saw expansion to about 120 outlets.
How do you see the future of your company and what is your view of online competition?
I feel confident and naturally proud of our anniversary. In the future we want to increase the number of outlets at locations suited to our type of business.
E-commerce is not something Centershop will be concerned with over the next period. Of course, many other brick-and-mortar outlets are suffering under competition from e-commerce. Personally I do not see the internet in a negative light. There are benefits to be gained from digital trade. Our aim is to offer products that cost less than those bought online. So we research online to see whether this strategy is feasible on a case-by-case basis and act accordingly. Trade fairs like the IAW are ideal for identifying opportunities.
Many thanks for the interview.