In the past 2019/20 financial year the Otto Group exceeded its own revenue and earnings targets and thus secured a good basis from which to tackle the current challenging business environment. The internationally active retail and services group sees further growth opportunities in the current financial year but has lowered its earnings targets.
In the past 2019/20 financial year (to 29 February) the Otto Group successfully increased revenues by 4.8 percent to 14.3 billion euros. Pure online revenues rose by 6.2 percent to around 8.1 billion euros, rising in Germany by 7.5 percent to 5.7 billion euros. This growth was reflected in a clear improvement in profitability in all business segments and on all earnings levels. Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) almost doubled, rising from 222 to 432 million euros; profit climbed from 177 to 214 million euros. “Thanks to our high investment in the digital transformation and thorough implementation of our focused growth strategy, we have made very good progress along our planned growth track”, confirms Alexander Birken, CEO and Chairman of the Otto Group Executive Board. “With this financial tailwind, our strategic digital focus, a very well-developed technical infrastructure and our resilient company culture, we are cautiously optimistic about overcoming the business challenges posed by the Corona pandemic – and in the mid-term, even emerging from this crisis stronger.”
Very good 2019/20 financial year
Aligned with its focused growth strategy the Otto Group makes targeted investments in Group companies with particularly promising growth and earnings prospects. A look back over the past financial year shows that the defined focus companies once again developed very well, raising overall revenue by 6.5 percent.
- Revenue at the single company OTTO climbed by 8.8 percent to 3.484 billion euros. At the same time the company once again made a triple-digit million-euro investment in its transformation to become a platform for brands and other retailers.
- Bonprix, the fashion retailer active in 30 countries, reported comparable growth of 2.4 percent. Following the integration of Otto Group Russia in Bonprix, Bonprix Group revenues climbed to 1.738 billion euros.
- The family-focused Mytoys Group raised revenues by 8.2 percent to 720 million euros. In particular the Shopping Community Limango in the Group portfolio clearly increased its revenues by around 20 percent to 272 million euros.
- The Witt Group, which specialises in the 50-plus customer group, successfully raised revenues by 4.9 percent to 856 million euros.
- Crate and Barrel, the furniture retailer based in Chicago (USA), took revenues 5.7 percent higher to 1.602 billion euros. This jump was overstated by exchange-rate effects, however; adjusted for these, growth was 0.9 percent.
- The Hermes Group reported an outstanding financial year: the logistics specialist increased revenues with Otto Group-external customers by 10.1 percent to 2.386 billion euros.
- The internationally active EOS Group can once again look back on a very successful financial year. The financial services group raised revenues by 5 percent to 837 million euros and achieved high profitability. Due to the sale of two Group companies in the previous year the reported growth figure does not do justice to the EOS Group’s very positive development; on a comparable basis revenue growth was 10 percent.
continued its extremely dynamic growth trajectory, with the fashion and technology company boosting revenues by 61.6 percent to 739 million euros. Given its shareholder structure, About You is no longer included in the Group’s consolidated financial statements. Higher portfolio efficiency
The efficiency of the company portfolio was also raised in the 2019/20 financial year to harness synergies within the Otto Group as well as with external partners. The Group company Sportscheck was sold to the Signa Group, and since March 2020 Heine has been managed by the Witt Group; this move is to secure the future viability of the Heine brand and to retain the company’s location in Karlsruhe for the long term. The Otto Group company Schwab was comprehensively restructured and the Hanau based company will in future focus on its promising Sheego brand. Besides this, following the dissolution of the joint venture with Hagebau, Baumarkt Direkt was integrated in the single Group company OTTO. Baumarkt Direkt is one of Germany’s leading DIY segment providers and will strengthen the OTTO platform strategy with its assortment and offer concepts.
As a result of these changes the technical average number of full-time Otto Group employees (FTE) fell slightly from 52,300 to around 52,000. In Germany the number declined by approximately 700 to 29,160 FTE. Rapid adjustment to meet Corona pandemic challenges
Following the outbreak of the Corona pandemic the Otto Group took far-reaching safety and hygiene measures to safeguard the health of its employees. Almost all of the Group’s approximately 20,000 commercial employees worldwide currently work remotely, primarily from home. Numerous safety and hygiene measures were also introduced at the Group companies’ over-the-counter (OTC) retail stores, merchandise warehouses and parcel-distribution depots to protect employees’ and customers’ health. Cautious optimism
In nearly all of the 30 countries where the Otto Group does business and which are affected by the global lockdown, the Group has been able to maintain almost its full performance capacity throughout the entire value chain, despite the heavy demands regarding health protection. Based on the operating experience gathered in March and April, the first months of the new financial year, the Otto Group is correspondingly optimistic. The Group’s retail and logistics companies have reacted flexibly and stable to the strong fluctuations in demand as well as huge growth in individual assortments. Thanks to the high availability of strong-selling goods and the broad spectrum of assortments, the Group’s retail and logistics companies have been able to acquire numerous new customers. Despite the temporary lockdown of the Group’s OTC businesses (affecting Crate and Barrel, the Witt Group, and Manufactum among others) and the suspension of parcel delivery in France, in both March and April the Otto Group successfully maintained the revenue levels achieved in the same months of the previous year. Competitive advantage of digital business models
“As a result of the stringent and focused investments we have made in digital business models over the years, at the Otto Group we believe we have a mid-and long-term competitive advantage”, emphasises Alexander Birken. For instance, the coherent development of platforms such as OTTO and About You is now generating increased demand from mainly OTC-orientated brands and retailers that also want to benefit from this strong ecosystem. In the current financial year the single company OTTO plans to bring some 1,000 partners on board on its platform, in order to create an even more attractive, more inspiring and more personal shopping experience for its customers, especially in the Living segment. In logistics too, Hermes Europe in particular reported a strong operating performance and high parcel-delivery quality: parcel volumes in April in Germany and Great Britain were at levels comparable to the strong Christmas business period and were handled successfully despite comprehensive health protection-related restrictions. Hermes acquired numerous new corporate customers also thanks to this excellent performance. To strengthen investment capacity it is planned to bring a strategic partner for European parcel deliveries on board in the current financial year as a joint shareholder. Opportunities for increased remote working
The Otto Group’s experience of mobile global collaboration also provides grounds for optimism. Thanks to the changes brought about by the Group-wide ‘Kulturwandel 4.0’ cultural transformation and the early adoption of Microsoft 365, collaboration has been outstanding despite employees’ physical distancing. In particular due to the comprehensive implementation of remote working the Group is applying digital and agile working methods more intensively, thus raising productivity. This also applies to highly customer-relevant processes at the Relation Centers. Even though on-site work at the Group companies’ administration buildings and on the Otto Group Campus in Hamburg will be progressively ramped up from the beginning of June, the Group Executive Board believes that the very positive experience gathered of remote working will continue to hold valid. Alexander Birken: “As an organisation we have learned unbelievably quickly, and have motivated and supported one another. The crisis has bonded us tightly together and spurred us on to reach new performance peaks. We definitely do not want to return to long meetings and inefficient business trips; we fully intend to harness this valuable experience to embrace mobile, agile and efficient New Work.” Responsible Commerce that inspires
Within this, even at a time of major business challenges the Otto Group sees it as fundamentally important to continue to live by its longstanding commitment to responsibility. True to the shared vision worked out jointly with the Shareholders, ‘Responsible commerce that inspires’, the Group maintains fair business relationships with its partners all the way up the value chain to suppliers in developing countries, for example. Group companies consistently purchased the merchandise ordered and manufactured; partnership-based solutions were found for the few orders that could not be completed.
The Group is relentlessly pursuing its own high goal of producing and shipping sustainably throughout the whole value chain. It is consistently advancing on the journey it has already undertaken to achieving CO2 neutrality by 2030 and will roll out its ambitious group-wide Sustainability Strategy in autumn this year. “The Corona pandemic is a test of our values. And we will pass this test successfully because we have held a profound belief for decades that doing business responsibly, particularly in these difficult times, is valued by our employees, partners and customers very highly”, emphasises Alexander Birken. Outlook
Notwithstanding these positive perspectives the Otto Group cannot predict what impacts the Corona pandemic may have on demand and supply markets. The unprecedented levels of negative consumer sentiment prevalent in all markets relevant to the Otto Group will lead to an already palpable demand decline, especially in textiles, and an overall intensification in price-based competition. Coupled with raised expenditure on protecting the health of its employees, this will weigh on earnings in the current financial year. The management of the Otto Group has responded early and consistently to counter this with strict cost discipline. Thanks to these efforts the Otto Group’s financial position remains sound. The Otto Group’s Shareholder family members have announced they will forego dividends until further notice. For the current financial year the Otto Group sees opportunities to increase revenues, but also expects a decline in earnings. Alexander Birken: “We believe we will successfully master the challenges of a difficult 2020/21 financial year and are cautiously optimistic about the future.”