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Sale of the supermarket chain: real employees have to continue shaking

The sale of the real chain is sealed, but the uncertainty continues for the employees. Because the financial investor SCP let through: The branch network is to be smashed.

By Jörg Marksteiner, WDR

Real is still being given, served and cashed in as always. Even if the sales contracts have now been signed after months of negotiations: For customers and the 34,000 employees concerned, everything will continue as before. Negotiations say that it will probably take until the summer for all the formalities to be completed. Only then will the new Russian financial investor SCP take command of real in everyday business.

After that, it should not be real in its current form for long. SCP wants to actually break up the chain of wholesale supermarkets that has grown together from previous brands such as Divi, Suma, Wertkauf and Allkauf. Of the current 276 branches, only a core of 50 real stores will remain, for at least two years. What happens next, for example when leases expire, is open. The concerns of cashiers, salespeople and administrative staff are correspondingly great.

Most of the locations are sold

At most real markets, a new logo will hang at some point. SCP intends to resell the majority of the locations to competitors such as Edeka, Kaufland and others. Insiders say there will probably be packages with lucrative and less attractive branches. Real markets of above-average size could also be divided. However, each sale must be individually checked and approved by the cartel office. Employees are at risk of months of uncertainty as to what will become of “their” market.

But everyone also knows that branches that no one is interested in should ultimately be closed. The metro says it could hit up to 30 markets. With 100 to 120 employees per market, around 3,000 employees would be affected. The 1300 employees in the Düsseldorf headquarters are also worried about their jobs: “The headquarters will dissolve over time”, fears a works council. “It will probably start in October. There will be a lot of tears.”

Works councils assume that the full extent of the job cuts will only gradually become visible. The Verdi union also speaks of a “bitter day for the employees”: “Metro management can be celebrated for the destruction of probably more than 10,000 jobs”, says Verdi board member Stefanie Nutzberger.

Metro boss Olaf Koch had promised the employees that they had contractually guaranteed them as well as possible: “It is certain that when the location is handed over, the colleagues go over with their valid contracts.” If there are layoffs, employees receive minimum severance payments. According to the works council, a maximum of 12 to 14 monthly salaries – which, given the retail income, is not a large sum.

Chain has been struggling with problems for years

For the Metro, real sales are “the last step” on the way to becoming a wholesaler, says CEO Koch. The former largest German retail group has for many years separated from many retail subsidiaries, such as Kaufhof, Praktiker, Adler, MediaMarkt and Saturn. He is now getting around 300 million euros for real and 80 properties also sold, less than originally expected.

The Metro had been trying to sell real since 2018. The chain has been struggling with problems for years. Metro boss Koch sees a reason in the wages paid for years. They had up to 30 percent higher costs than competitors. Therefore, in real opposition to the union’s opposition, the collective agreement with Verdi ended. Since then, new employees have been paid less.

Retail experts also see structural problems: today, many customers prefer to go to nearby, modernized supermarkets and discounters rather than to the huge real markets with their 60,000 items, which are often outside. In addition there is a lot of “nonfood” traditionally sold at real: clothing, electrical appliances, household goods – all items that suffer particularly from online competition.

The Tagesschau reported on this topic on February 19, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.

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