17 April 2023

“We are a corporate group, an SME, and a start-up all at the same time.”

In our latest edition of Voice of the Month, CEO Lionel Souque explains how the cooperative structure and its values shape the REWE Group and make it particularly strong.
Reading time: 7 min.

Dear Reader,

An economic powerhouse – a retail and tourism group as large as the REWE Group may be given such a label every now and then. We are more than happy to accept the responsibility that this entails. However, as a Group we take on a much more pragmatic approach in our daily business. Having economic power means we have the power to get things done.

We supply our customers more than 50 million times a week in Germany alone. We are a partner for tens of thousands of suppliers. We are responsible for around 384,000 employees, with more than 280,000 of them in Germany. What is it that makes us so strong? What shapes us and differentiates us from so many other companies? We were founded in 1927 as a cooperative, whose values and identity as a cooperative still shape us today. We draw strength from within. We have proven this daily in recent years.

A year ago, a war on European soil shook us to the core. This sudden aggression occurred in a Europe that was exhausted and struggling to regain a sense of hope after enduring two years of pandemic. We also wanted to return to a sense of normalcy. But once again, it was time to roll up our sleeves and fully commit to the challenges.  The high inflation that is a major concern for many of our customers, soaring energy prices, the complex interdependencies of our economic system, the challenge of procuring everyday products that we aim to provide on a reliable and low-cost basis.

How did we respond to these challenges? We had and will continue to engage in difficult negotiations, address conflicts, and develop the best solutions to supply the people of Germany and Europe with affordable food products. This has been our mission for nearly a century and we take it very seriously. In 2022, for example, we set aside hundreds of millions of euros to stabilise retail prices for our customers, thus deliberately forgoing revenues. As a result, year-on-year profits were down and the prices for our products have risen. Over the past year, inflation amounted to just over seven percent in REWE supermarkets, while the average rate of food inflation in Germany was 13.4 percent in 2022. However, since the start of this year alone, we have reduced the price of some 900 items and have taken every opportunity to stabilise retail prices for our customers.

We chose this path very deliberately. We were able to do so because we are a cooperative, because our owners are retailers and they understand the realities of everyday life. And because we are Europe’s second largest tourism group, we managed to make it through the pandemic on our own – even though tourism more or less collapsed overnight. We built this strength by reinvesting almost all of our profits into the company – for the benefit of our customers, retailers, and employees.

Being an economic powerhouse for us also means we stand up for our customers, suppliers, and employees daily, fight for sustainability, drive innovation with our start-up mentality, and serve as a genuine force for good – because thousands of people visit our stores and travel agencies every day. We are European, diverse, multicultural, inclusive, socially conscious and above all else: strong together.

Our 1,800 retailers shape our business; they put their heart and soul into the mid-market sector.

Lionel Souque, Chief Executive Officer
Lionel Souque  (Chief Executive Officer)
Lionel Souque, Chief Executive Officer

Our 1,800 retailers shape our business; they put their heart and soul into the mid-market sector. They are part of their local communities, they pay their taxes, they create jobs and provide local neighbourhoods with a place to buy food, they are deeply rooted in the cities and towns where they operate, they are involved there and know how the local citizens truly feel, what motivates them and what they need. They are our definition of an economic power; in the best traditional sense of the SME that are the backbone of the economy, especially in Germany, they are the backbone of the economy. This is why we are the envy of many countries. In my home country France, for example, they also use the German word ‘Mittelstand’ to refer to small and mid-sized companies – the word is used with admiration, because it stands for German pragmatism.

Rather than taking these values for granted and ignoring them, we should uphold and maintain them. And we do this on a daily basis. The REWE Group is a cooperative that is almost a century old. It is active throughout the country, in every region, as well as in 20 other countries. As part of the critical infrastructure, it is resilient and able to withstand crises. The Group has had strong local roots for decades and continues to find ways to move forward, establishing start-ups and in doing so preparing for the future.

My invitation to you is this: listen to us and engage in a dialogue with us. We are a corporate group, an SME, and a start-up all at the same time, and with these different perspectives we turn to sociopolitical discussions. We are happy to present our experiences and values actively and transparently. We take a stand, initiate debates and participate in these discussions. We do this because we are convinced that we need to face these challenging times together.

We are ready!
Yours sincerely,
Lionel Souque

Lionel Souque  (Chief Executive Officer)
Lionel Souque
Chief Executive Officer

About REWE Group

The cooperatively organized REWE Group is one of the leading trade and tourism groups in Germany and Europe. In 2023, the company generated a total external turnover of more than 92 billion euros. Founded in 1927, REWE Group operates with around 390,000 employees in 21 European countries. 

The sales lines include REWE, REWE CENTER and BILLA as well as BILLA PLUS and ADEG supermarkets and consumer stores, the discounter PENNY, IKI, the drugstores BIPA and the toom Baumarkt DIY stores. The company also operates convenience stores REWE To Go and the e-commerce activities REWE Liefer- and Abholservice as well as Zooroyal and Weinfreunde. The Lekkerland Group comprises the wholesale activities of the business group in the area of on-the-go consumption. Under the umbrella of DERTOUR Group, the Travel and Tourism division includes more than 2,100 travel agencies, tour operators as well as hotel brands and online travel portals.