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International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

Challenges and opportunities of Turkish food retail in Germany from a value chain perspective
Tanju Aygün Gerald Oeser
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Challenges and opportunities of Turkish food retail in Germany from a value chain

1 Introduction

The approximately 10,000 Turkish food retailers (Aygün, 2010) and 350 food
wholesalers in Germany generate around €10 billion in revenue annually (Skarka, 2004)
with more than 100,000 employees (Aygün, 2005). Nearly thirty percent of all food
retail shops in Germany are Turkish (Nielsen, 2012). They form an integral part of
German society (Floeting et al., 2005; Sen and Sauer, 2005), serving as local suppliers
for all residents in certain neighbourhoods (Floeting et al., 2005), especially due to the
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shrinking number of retail shops in general (Nielsen, 2012), as integrators for migrants,
and as links between migrants and Germans and between informal and formal
employment. In addition, they offer jobs and apprenticeship positions also to teenagers
who would be difficult to place otherwise (Floeting et al., 2005).
Although ethnic economies and multicultural consumer behaviour have been researched
in the U. S. for a long time (Aygün, 2005; Floeting et al., 2005), the Turkish food trade
so far has played a minor role in business, economics, and socio-scientific research as
well as local politics in Germany (Floeting et al., 2005).
This Turkish food trade is threatened by shifts in customer demand and changes in
competition. Therefore, this paper investigates these challenges and opportunities for
Turkish food trade in Germany from a value chain perspective using expert interviews
with 18 Turkish-German businesspersons and a qualitative survey of 349 German
students. The research goal is to identify starting points for improving the business
policy of Turkish food retailers in Germany from a predominantly strategic perspective
in order to strengthen their competitive position. We will first review the relevant
literature, then explain our methodology, present our findings and their managerial,
societal, and research implications, and end with a conclusion.

2 Literature review

2.1 Turkish food trade and consumers in Germany

The fact that there is such little investigation into Turkish food trade in Germany, as
summarized in table 1, might result from definition and classification problems, lack of
data (Aydin et al., 2012; Floeting et al., 2005; Liakova, 2011) as well as little
networking (cf. Hingley et al., 2010; Liakova 2011), the heterogeneity of Turkish food
retailers, and their occasional resistance to consulting (Floeting et al., 2005). The
language barrier and closed-community mentality of Turkish merchants also impede
researchers’ access to this target group. Moreover, economic development corporations
disagree on the economic relevance of these companies because of low individual
incomes (lower than that of other ethnic companies in Germany) and predominantly
family and informal employment (Floeting et al., 2005).
In general, production and service companies managed by Turkish migrants seem to be
less efficient and profitable than those managed by other migrant groups (Floeting et al.,
2005) or Germans (Aydin et al., 2012). In addition, the economic situation of a large
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number of migrant companies generally seems to have become more difficult (Sen and
Sauer, 2005).
The main reasons of Turkish customers for patronizing Turkish grocery shops are the
availability of Turkish and halal products (products produced according to Muslim law),
Turkish-language service, their family atmosphere, observation of religious rules, and
product freshness. However, the core competencies of Turkish food retailers seem to
have eroded and, consequently, the reasons for patronizing them seem to have been in
the decline. Young migrants buy food for smaller households and consider the above
reasons less important than older generations so that they tend to patronize Turkish food
retailers less frequently (Aygün, 2005; Erdem and Schmidt 2008). In addition, German
retailers increasingly add selected Turkish products to their ranges, such as cheese,
olives, yoghurt, ayran (refreshment made from yoghurt, water, and salt), and deep-
frozen foods such as Turkish pizza and they have also caught up with product freshness.
Thus German discounters now also offer eggplants and courgettes as part of their
standard product range.
Due to these changes in demand and the competitive environment, revenues of Turkish
food trade have decreased and, from 2004 to 2009, the number of Turkish retailers or so
called “uncle Mehmet shops” has dropped by 17 percent from 12,000 (Ulusoy, 2004) to
10,000 (Aygün, 2010). This could lead to the demise of Turkish retailers comparable to
that of German corner shops (“Tante-Emma-Läden”) due to supermarkets, specialist
retailers, and discounters and could consequently result in commercial space vacancies
in some neighbourhoods (Floeting et al., 2005). So far, professional business start-up
consulting, coaching, the support of apprenticeships in Turkish companies, information
about financial aid (Sen and Sauer, 2005), inclusion in local advice and support
structures (Floeting et al., 2005; Liakova, 2011; Schuleri-Hartje et al., 2005; Sen und
Sauer, 2005), as well as networking (Floeting et al., 2005) have been proposed as
solutions for the German market. However, these approaches may not suffice or they
might even fail, partly because of romanticization, resistance to taking advantage of
consulting, and isolated position of Turkish food retailers (Floeting et al., 2005; Liakova
2011). Therefore, Floeting et al. (2005) recommend a more holistic, interdisciplinary
and action-oriented examination. This paper is trying to follow their recommendation
thus filling this research gap.
2.2 Ethnic trade and consumers
International research on ethnic economies, trade, and consumers could provide
valuable directions for improving the situation of Turkish food retail in Germany:
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Most publications deal with the motives, influencing factors, and background of migrant
consumption (Grier et al., 2006), for example, with the migration itself (D'Rozario and
Choudhury, 2003; Tari et al., 2008), integration, adaptation, and acculturation (Aygün,
2005; Coble and Jimenez, 2008; Danzer and Ulku, 2011; Laroche et al., 1998;
Newmann and Sahak, 2012; Penaloza, 1989; Sunkyu et al., 1993; Vedder et al., 2007),
religious considerations and religiousness (Abedin and Brettel, 2011a, 2011b; Aygün,
2005; Bonne et al., 2009; Ergin and Kaufman-Scarborough, 2010), household income
(Aygün, 2005; Danzer and Ulku, 2011; Tari et al., 2008), perishability of food (Goldman
and Hino, 2005), manufacturer and trade brands (Omar et al., 2004), desires, wishes,
hopes, and surroundings as orientation for consumption (Tari et al., 2008), childhood
experience, cultural customs, as well as the availability of Turkish products (Ergin and
Kaufman-Scarborough, 2010).
In summary, the existing literature mostly describes merely ethnic consumers and their
behaviours but does not give recommendations for improving business policies and
competitive positions of Turkish food retailers in Germany. Therefore, we focus on
Turkish food retailers and not German-Turkish consumers as previous studies did.

2.3 The value chain approach

Porter (1985) develops the management concept of the value chain, which considers a
“firm” or company as a bundle of activities. Value activities are “technologically and
economically distinct activities [… a company] performs to do business” [Porter,
(2008), p. 75], generate value, consume resources, and are connected in processes.
The flexible value chain approach has been well-known and applied (Al Ghamdi, 2005)
for nearly 30 years in strategic organizational planning and is the foundation of the
Supply Chain Council’s Supply Chain Operations Reference Model and quality
management norm ISO 9001. Feldmann (2002), Müller (2005), Riot et al. (2013), and
Schüßler et al. (2014), for instance, fruitfully adopt a value chain perspective in their
business and retail research. This facilitates a holistic and strategic cost management,
value creation, and competition analysis. Thus a company can understand and improve
each activity’s contribution to its cost and value creation or its customers’ willingness to
pay and increase its competitiveness and profit.
Among others, Floeting et al. (2005) and Sen and Sauer (2005) suggest that Turkish
food retailers are mainly occupied with their everyday business instead of improving
their business policy and consequently their competitive position from a strategic
perspective. The value chain approach helps to both adopt this strategic perspective and
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realize a defined strategy in the operations, as the value activities “provide the bridge
between strategy and implementation” [Porter, (1998), p. xviii]. Therefore this is the
approach considered to be the most suitable for our research.
Author Year Source Discipline Research Method Research Object Results Actions
Aydin et al. 2012 International Business Financial analysis of Do production and Turkish companies in both
Journal of production and service service companies industries: higher liquidity
Business & companies managed by managed by Turkish risk, lower leverage, less
Management Turkish migrants migrants differ in profitable, higher
(Turkish companies) and performance from those borrowing costs, less
Germans in Germany in managed by Germans? return on risk and output
2007 per input
Abedin and 2011a AMA Summer Business Survey with students of Influence of Identification with the
Brettel Educators' (marketing) Turkish origin (2nd and acculturation strategies country of origin
Conference 3rd generations of of students of Turkish influences the
Proceedings Turkish immigrants) origin on their consumer consumption of Turkish
behaviour media
Abedin and 2011b AMA Summer Business Survey with Muslim Influence of religion on Religiousness is strongly 90% of the Muslims
Brettel Educators' (marketing) students of Turkish Turkish migrants' linked with the perceived living in Germany are
Conference origin (2nd and 3rd consumer behaviour in importance of Muslim religious (41% very
Proceedings generations of Turkish Germany (relationship rules which concern religious): Marketing
immigrants) between religiousness consumer behaviour; should consider religious
and innovation, negative correlation principles and rules and
materialism, and the between religiousness aim at the usability of
perceived importance of and one of three the product instead of
Muslim rules which dimensions of materialism materialistic features.
influence consumer
Danzer and Ulku 2011 Kyklos Economics / social Analysis of households Integration, social Integration is the rational
sciences of Turkish migrants in networks, and economic strategy for better situated
Berlin success of Turkish migrants, while it can be
migrants in Berlin costly for poorer ones:
Being strongly rooted in
one’s own ethnic group is
rather advantageous for
poor households
Liakova 2011 Stiftung Zentrum Regional studies / Analysis of data from Expertise on the scale The different institutions Include migrant
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für Türkeistudien Business different sources: and structure of migrant and offices keep differing companies in support
(Foundation statistical office of North- companies on a local records. There seems to and advice structures;
Center for Turkey Rhine Westphalia, level (in the county of be little networking integrate them as
Studies) statistics of the county of Mettmann) and their between migrant partners in city and local
Mettmann, the embedment in local and companies and the economic development
chambers of commerce regional structures accepting society.
and handicrafts of
Düsseldorf, commercial
registers, industrial
directories, company
and migrant
Erdem and 2008 Journal of Retail & Business Literature review Ethnic marketing for Trust as a family value, Ethnic marketing should
Schmidt Distribution (marketing) Turkish migrants in connection to home emphasize the
Management Germany country, and Turkish importance of the
media are important extended family
especially to older network, use the Turkish
Turkish-German language and media
consumers. and Turkish employees
to gain trust of Turkish-
German consumers.
Anzengruber 2008 Gabler Edition Business / social Face-to-face interviews Consumer behaviour of Turkish-Germans show a Further research on
Wissenschaft sciences with 50 people about young Germans and higher brand awareness intercultural consumer
(Ph.D. thesis) socio-demographic and Turkish-Germans (18 to and prestige orientation in behaviour of cultural
psychographic qualities 29 year olds) from an food consumption than groups living in
economic and Germans. Germany
sociological perspective
Valiente and 2006 VDM Verlag Dr. Business Socio-demographic data Comparison of Turkish-Germans show Develop new markets
Yetgin Müller (marketing), social and background demographic and the highest purchasing with ethnic marketing
and cultural information on Turkish- psychographic data power of all migrant focusing on Turkish
sciences Germans between Turkish-German groups in Germany. On needs, because the
and German consumers average, they are target group of Turkish-
younger, more inclined to Germans offers a
shop, loyal, and brand- promising potential.
conscious customers, and
live in larger families than
Germans. They buy most
of their everyday products
in German retail shops,
but meat, vegetables, and
fruit in Turkish ones.
Aygün 2005 EUL-Verlag Business Representative survey Retail shop selection Significant differences in Professionalizing
(Ph.D. thesis) (retail) of 321 Turkish-Germans behaviour of Turkish- retail shop selection Turkish retail; German
of different generations Germans between Turkish- retail should involve the
Germans and Germans Turkish-German target
and between generations group better when
planning actions.
Floeting et al. 2005 Aktuelle Urban research Secondary analysis of Relevant interaction Potentials and problems More holistic,
Information, issue and ethnic-specific factors of migrant of migrant companies in interdisciplinary, and
Deutsches Institut research and data on economies in Germany Germany action-oriented research
für Urbanistik migrant economies in and collaboration of
(German Institute Germany, guideline- different institutions
for Urbanistics) based interviews with
city and regional experts
and businesspeople
Sen and Sauer 2005 Berliner Beiträge Business and Standardized phone Analysis of strengths Although the almost 6,000 Professional business
zur Integration integration survey with 302 and weaknesses of companies of migrants of start-up consulting,
und Migration research company owners of ethnic businesses in Turkish origin form an coaching, supporting
(Berlin Turkish origin Berlin important economic factor apprenticeships in
Publications on in Berlin, the economic Turkish companies,
Integration and situation of a lot of information about
Migration) migrant companies has financial aid, inclusion in
deteriorated compared to local advice and support
2001. structures
Schuleri-Hartje et 2005 Deutsches Institut Business and Cf. Floeting et al. 2005 The integrative Ethnic economies used to Consider the cultural
al. für Urbanistik integration potential and function be an integration issue imprint more when
research of ethnic economies for and have become an developing actions,
migrants having resided economic development create information pools,
in Germany for a long issue. An integrated secure continuity of
time and for newly- approach considering the projects, involve migrant
arrived migrants. neighbourhoods becomes companies more in
necessary. neighbourhood projects

Table 1: Selected publications on Turkish companies and consumers in Germany

3 Methodology

3.1 Expert interviews

As, so far, little research has been conducted on Turkish food trade in Germany, in April
of 2014, we held expert interviews with representatives from 18 companies from the
federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, doing business in the whole of Germany. These
companies reflect all echelons of the Turkish food supply chain with four doner kebab
and two meat producers, one pastries producer, four doner kebab and two meat
wholesalers, one pastries wholesaler, one single and one large food retailer with nine
shops, one business consultant specialising in Turkish dairy wholesale and brands, as
well as one systems supplier. The Turkish businesspersons, all of them men, we
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interviewed, on average, were 47 years old and had twelve years of entrepreneurial
experience. Eight experts possessed a graduate degree and ten a school-leaving
certificate usually taken after the fifth year of secondary school “Mittlere Reife”
(equivalent to the General Certificate of Secondary Education).
With 17.8 million inhabitants and a GDP of €582.1 billion, North Rhine-Westphalia is the
most populous and economically strongest German federal state (Statistisches Bundesamt
2013). This assured the economic relevance of our results.
Expert interviews are very common in and suitable for empirical explorative retail and
distribution management research (e.g. Chabaud and Codron, 2005; Schmidt and Pioch,
2005; Laing and Royle, 2006; Aman and Hopkinson, 2010; Kluge et al., 2013; Saucède et
al., 2014; Faust and Surchi, 2015; Gardo et al., 2015; Hristov and Reynolds, 2015). They
allow to time-efficiently acquire expert knowledge based on experience (Mieg and
Brunner, 2004). Experts possess knowledge that only few people have and they are
actively involved in their local community (Meuser and Nagel, 2009). They are in charge
of developing, designing, executing, and/or controlling the solution of a problem and thus
possess privileged information about certain people, situations, decisions, processes,
politics (Meuser and Nagel, 2009), or business.
In order to follow Floeting et al.’s (2005) recommendation of a more holistic,
interdisciplinary and action-oriented examination, we interviewed experts from different
parts of the Turkish food supply chain in Germany. So we also took Meuser and Nagel’s
(2009) advice to consider the different opinions of experts or interest groups in selecting
the sample.
We decided to conduct expert interviews, since they are considered to be the main method
to gather operating knowledge of the circumstances (institutional principles, rules, and
reasoning) of the experts’ behaviour and context knowledge of the living circumstances,
conduct, and development of specific groups of people, which are targeted by the experts’
actions (Meuser and Nagel, 2009).
In general, expert interviews are successful if the experts consider their interviewer as
competent. Interviewers with, for example, academic titles are likely to be considered
more competent (Meuser and Nagel, 2009). Indeed, managers in particular expect that the
researcher interviewing them carries an academic title (Trinczek, 2002; Meuser and
Nagel, 2009). The target group has also been described to be difficult to access and
advice-resistant (Floeting et al., 2005). Therefore, a Turkish-German professor from a
university of applied sciences, who speaks both German and Turkish fluently and has
practical experience in both German and Turkish food retail, contacted and interviewed
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these experts via a Turkish company association in Germany.

To facilitate the comparison of the interviews, the interviewer used a guideline and
touched the Turkish food value chain, challenges, solutions, opportunities to increase
sales, and visions for Turkish food trade in Germany. Nonetheless, the interviewer made
sure not to hinder the experts talking about unexpected subjects (cf. Meuser and Nagel,
To analyse the qualitative data gathered from the interviews, Meuser and Nagel’s (2009)
method was applied as follows:
(1) The interviews were transcribed.
(2) Thematic units of the individual transcripts were arranged according to the
respective interview’s sequence (paraphrasing).
(3) The individual interviews’ sequences were broken up and the paraphrased
passages assigned to topics staying close to the text (coding).
(4) The single text elements were reviewed and similar text passages from the various
interviews were combined (thematic comparison). On the basis of the individual
interviews it was tested whether this comparison was complete and valid.
(5) The interviews’ terminology was left, resemblances and disparities were carved
out on the basis of theoretical knowledge, and the expert knowledge structure was
prepared using empirical generalization (economical conceptualization).
(6) The interrelationships were merged by means of a value chain approach
(theoretical generalization).
(7) Previous steps of this analysis were revisited to check whether the generalizations
were adequate and justified by the data (recursivity).
3.2 Qualitative survey
These interviews reveal that the experts intend to extend their consumer base to German
consumers. Therefore, we also conducted a paper-based survey with 349 working
Bachelor students of trade (130), logistics (92), and industrial (79) management as well as
business informatics (48) at the European University of Applied Sciences in Neuss and
Brühl in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany during different lecture classes from May
until July of 2014. In addition to their studies, these students had worked for companies in
the respective areas for at least one year. The students were all around twenty years old
and mostly of German background. Only two male and three female interviewees were of
Turkish origin. First, the current challenges of Turkish food retail were presented to the
students. Then they were each asked what they would advise Turkish food retailers to do
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in order to improve their situation, whether and why they do or do not shop in Turkish
grocery shops, and what these shops would have to offer in order to attract them.
The students reflected on both the customer perspective as well as all on relevant areas of
the supply chain. This approach targeted a potent customer target group (cf. Han, 1994),
who will soon start families of their own, and it ensured a high response rate, the
interviewees’ theoretical and practical competence, and the sample’s and results’
economic relevance (cf. Oeser and Romano 2016).
Due to the relatively large size of the sample, a qualitative survey with open questions
was chosen to explore the thoughts and behaviours of this customer target group (cf.
Young, 2009; Walle, 2014). In business, qualitative surveys are particularly suitable to
adjust to customer needs and make marketing and innovation decisions (Young, 2009), as
happens here.
The answers to the open questions were allocated to categories which were obtained from
the data themselves. In order to ensure objectivity, the answer data were coded again
independently by a second coder. Slight deviations were discussed and remedied. Such a
content analysis approach is suggested by, for example, Früh (2007), Züll (2015), and
Sreejesh et al. (2013).

4 Results and Implications

4.1 Interviews with 18 Experts

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Figure 1: The Turkish Food Supply Chain in Germany

4.1.1 The Turkish food supply chain

In the expert interviews, the composition of the Turkish food supply chain in Germany,
see figure 1, became apparent: Approximately half of the Turkish food retailers’
customers are of Turkish, 20% of other ethnic (especially Arabic), and 30% of German
origin. “Due to the size of their families, Arabic customers are an especially important
target group for Turkish food trade.” If not noted otherwise, the quotes in this section
were made by the experts we interviewed.
Turkish food retailers, in contrast to German retailers, only acquire products from Turkish
food wholesalers and not directly from producers. Likewise, ethnic food retailers in Great
Britain do not collaborate with producers either, but obtain all their products from
wholesalers, who import fresh products from abroad, even though these products could
also be produced locally, especially since customers are increasingly attaching importance
to local products and produce (Hingley et al., 2010). Turkish food wholesalers make
around 85% of their sales to Turkish and 15% to German retailers. „The turnover with
German grocery shops is growing year by year, especially in regions with many Turkish
and Arabic residents. In regions with mostly German customers, we sometimes struggle
to market products in German retail shops, for example, in ‘halal sections’ like in other
European countries, because the managers fear the majority of customers may dislike it.“
If Turkish grocery shops disappeared, Turkish wholesalers could still deliver to German
food retailers. However, as Turkish food retail is unorganized, Turkish food wholesalers
can earn higher margins with their Turkish than with their German retail customers,
albeit “the payment behaviour of German retail is much better than of Turkish retail”.
Turkish wholesalers obtain dairy and meat from manufacturers in Germany because of
restrictions on importing these products from Turkey, halal products mainly from
producers in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands due to legal restrictions in Germany,
and other products from Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria.
German food retail is organized in retail shop chains and for them wholesale plays a
minor role (Müller-Hagedorn, 2012). Turkish food retailers, however, are predominantly
single independent shops and are not part of chains. Therefore, the assortment and
distribution function of Turkish wholesalers is very important for them and thus they incur
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higher costs than German food retailers.

4.1.2 Challenges and opportunities

The interviews also revealed further challenges (figure 2) and opportunities (figure 3) in
the Turkish food value chain. In such a value chain, primary activities contribute directly
to the value creation of a product or service while support activities are crucial for them
and contribute indirectly to the value creation of a product or service (Porter, 2013).
Turkish trading companies conduct most primary and support value activities
inefficiently, a fact which leads to low profit margins (Floeting et al., 2005).
According to the experts interviewed, young Turkish-German customers patronize
Turkish food retailers less and less frequently, as the different generations of Turkish-
German customers have different taste preferences and consumption habits. “For the
older generation the Turkish language played an important role. For the younger
generation communicating in Turkish in the shop is no longer so important.” The first-
generation Turkish immigrants, for example, like their food very spicy, while the
following generations have undergone a taste socialization with German and other
ethnic foods. This suggests that Turkish retailers could adapt their product offerings
accordingly to satisfy the needs of both elder and younger Turkish-German customers
(customer value).
Single retailers do not possess the resources to invest in their businesses (cf. Floeting et
al., 2005) and to monitor and react to upcoming trends flexibly (firm or company
infrastructure). Business cooperatives, however, might be able to provide the necessary
resources, agility, and crisis management.
Turkish trading companies have less-skilled employees and face difficulties in
recruiting skilled employees (human resource management). Even an owner of nine
retail shops was not able to fill an area manager position, although the salary for this
position was competitive with German retailers: “Turkish-Germans rather like to work
as area managers for Aldi [the leading food discounter] because of the higher perceived
prestige and job security”. Therefore, Turkish retailers might cooperate with other
retailers, wholesalers, producers, colleges, and other institutions to educate their own
employees, increase the number of retailers offering apprenticeships, and recruit
employees from within this network. “Our competitiveness depends largely on the
extent to which qualified staff can be recruited.”
This requires market research and concerted product development in cooperation with
food manufacturers (technology development). Turkish retailers might add products for
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children as well as organic, health and spa as well as convenience products to their
assortment. The latter suggestion might be supported by Laroche et al. (1998) finding
that acculturation may promote the consumption of convenience foods.
It is suggested that retailers form purchasing cooperatives to improve efficiency in
procurement. Furthermore, modern merchandise management systems and supply chain
management could improve inbound and outbound logistics: “We still have enormous
potential to reduce logistics costs”.
Customers seem to trust German retailers more than Turkish ones when it comes to
product quality and hygiene (operations). This could be alleviated by training
employees, product certifications, and seals from product test foundations.
Marketing and sales can be improved by building a common brand, marketing, and
advertising for Turkish retailers. “Role models like German-Turkish players from the
German national soccer team could be hired for advertisements.” The market share of
Turkish trade could be increased by extending the target group to other ethnic groups as
well as Germans and transforming Turkish grocery shops to ethnic markets. Customer
needs can only be satisfied efficiently if Turkish retailers, wholesalers, and producers
collaborate in line with efficient consumer response: “The different players have not
understood yet that they all need to work together to be successful”.
Turkish retail can successfully face its German competition by focusing on its core
competencies, such as offering a wide range of high-quality fruit, vegetables, and halal
products at competitive prices, bilingually and with a friendly service. To achieve this
level and quality of service it is crucial to establish qualified training in collaboration
with retailers, wholesalers, producers, academia, and other institutions.
4.1.3 Prospects
The experts interviewed believe that the ongoing reduction of Turkish grocery shops
will continue. Those shops, which do not fulfil customer expectations, will disappear.
The remaining shops will comprise 800 to 1,000 square meters per shop in size. Retail
chains supplying certain regions, for example, the federal state of North Rhine-
Westphalia, will evolve. Customer service, not only in terms of friendly, smiling, and
knowledgeable employees and interactivity with customers will become crucial. The
Turkish retailers interviewed do not intend to focus on e-commerce: “E-commerce does
not matter when it comes to fresh food”.
In order to master the current challenges, Turkish retailers will need to gradually
cooperate with other retailers, wholesalers, producers, academia, and other institutions.
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Therefore, they have to compromise and focus on business essentials instead of ethnic
and religious differences. Two shop owners of different religious denominations, for
example, explained that they were able to work side by side because one was in charge
of sales and the other one of procurement and they did not talk about religion or politics
at work. The Turkish-German businessmen interviewed welcomed this research and
networking forums as they were unable to cope with their economic situation
They believe competent institutions ought to be made aware of the problems Turkish
retail faces in Germany and current and future Turkish-German businesspeople should
benefit from subsidies without any significant obstacles. However, ethnic enterprises
show a very high bankruptcy rate (Floeting et al., 2005), so that subsidies may have to
be tied to profound consulting services.
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Figure 2: Challenges of the Turkish Food Value Chain in Germany from the
Experts’ Perspective

Figure 3: Opportunities of the Turkish Food Value Chain in Germany from the
Experts’ Perspective

4.2 Qualitative survey of 349 students

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Figure 4: Top Factors Motivating and Demotivating the Students to Patronize

Turkish Grocery Shops and Arising Opportunities in Decreasing Order of
Frequency of Mentioning

The survey of the 349 students reveals factors which motivate and demotivate them to
patronize Turkish grocery shops and recommendations arising from these factors. This
radial relationship is summarized in figure 4.

4.2.1 Motivating factors

The students seem encouraged to shop in Turkish grocery shops because of the friendly
family atmosphere (“In the shop, there are usually Turkish people chatting, drinking tea,
and laughing.” “When you enter the shop, you see smiling faces.” “When I go shopping
there, I am offered a black tea for free.”), the convenient opening times, the product
freshness (“The fruit tastes better than in German shops.” “They receive fresh products
on a daily basis.”), the cultural shopping experience (“I like the smell there.” “It feels
like you were in a different country.”), and the Turkish specialties (“Certain products I
can only get there.” “I went there to look for typical Turkish products I got to know on
my holidays in Turkey.”) in decreasing order of frequency of being mentioned. This is
supported by one Turkish retailer, who remarks, “We notice that after the holiday season
new customers, especially Germans, shop with us after returning from their holidays in
4.2.2 Demotivating factors
Students are discouraged from shopping there because of the messy, confusing, sombre,
and outdated appearance of most Turkish grocery shops (“There is no clear structure.”
“I feel totally lost in these shops.” “Every Turkish shop’s layout is different.” “It looks
like a junk room.” “It is always so dark in there.” “It looks old and shabby.”).
Especially female students are afraid to just browse these shops, some because of verbal
sexual harassment experiences or fears (“Some male shop assistants are so pushy.” “You
cannot look around in peace.” “Some Turks always hit on you.”). Other students feel
they are not welcome and that non-Turkish customers are discriminated against
compared to Turkish ones (“I get strange looks when I go there.” “They do not seem to
be used to German customers.” “I feel like I do a good deed for integration when I go
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shopping there.”. “They give me unfriendly looks.”. “I waited at the cash register for
five minutes. When the shop assistant finally came, I asked him why it took so long. He
replied, 'I was praying.'”).
Product descriptions only in Turkish, shop assistants’ poor command of the German
language, distance to the shops, unattractive and inappropriate products, being
unfamiliar with Turkish products (“I do not know how to prepare some of the products
they sell.”), and high prices (“I was charged €1.50 for a litre of milk compared to €0.65
at Aldi.” “They expect you to pay €4 for a small box of Turkish candy.”) are also cited
as reasons for not patronizing Turkish food retailers. Most students, however, consider
the prices good, especially for flatbread, pizza dough, meat, and apple tea.

4.2.3 Recommendations
This section presents the students’ recommendations and our respective appraisal. The
students recommend eliminating these demotivating factors as well as extending and
adapting the product line, advertising to German customers, establishing cooperation of
Turkish retailers in purchasing and marketing and of Turkish with German and other
ethnic retailers (“EDEKA Turkey Edition”. EDEKA is the largest German food retail
chain in terms of sales (The Nielsen Company, 2016).), improving service, locating
shops centrally in rural neighbourhoods without other grocery shops and young-
population neighbourhoods, and improving processes and prices in decreasing order of
frequency of being mentioned.
Pertaining to service, students emphasise strengthening good customer service, for
example, being able to have purchases ‘put on the slate’, help with packing bags, advice
on products and preparation, and extended opening times of 24 hours 7 days a week. It
should be checked if this is cost effective and compatible with legal trading restrictions.
Especially the Turkish-German students wish for fast on-cash payment options and
nearby parking, which often is not available near Turkish retail shops in narrow side
streets. In contrast to elder Turkish-Germans they do not like to spend time talking to
shop assistants. This corresponds to Aygün’s (2005) findings.
Two German male students prefer friendly, attractive female shop assistants to only
male shop assistants nowadays (“I do not want an old Turkish guy. I want attractive
young female shop assistants.”) It should be checked whether this is in line with the
shop owners’ and the values of older customers.
In general, the students prefer a friendly and inviting but not intrusive service. Female
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students, for example, do not like to be addressed formally with “Meine Dame”
(“Madam”): “This makes me feel uncomfortable and old.” “This reminds me of how my
parents used to call me as a child, when I got in trouble”.
A lot of students recommend expanding the offer of freshly prepared food and drinks
and catering, for example, in the form of breakfast, freshly baked flat bread, a variety of
pastries, bakery self-service as offered by bakery discount shops, freshly brewed
Turkish tea, a coffee shop, gourmet food, lunchtime specials, home delivery especially
for senior citizens, and “doner kebab instead of pizza home deliveries during special
events, such as the football world cup”. Legal restrictions concerning catering in
grocery shops and cold chain management should be checked accordingly.
Overall, the students are seeking shopping experience rather than merely being able to
buy food. So, Turkish grocery shops could offer project weeks and cooking events so
that German customers get to know Turkish products and their preparation. This, of
course, would then have implications for shop location, design, and layout, product line,
marketing, and processes.
The students are looking for Turkish grocery shops that convey a “friendly
Mediterranean atmosphere” and a “holiday feeling”. They should be accessible by car,
noticeable, inviting, and not hidden in side streets. There should be a clear separation
between the owner’s home and the shop. This also implies appropriate work clothes for
all employees, perhaps even featuring a corporate design. A male student’s comment
illustrates what potential customers do not wish to experience in a Turkish grocery shop:
“In the shop there were five men in sweat pants and the shop owner was sitting in an
armchair drinking tea and asked me whether I was lost”.
Like the experts, the students believe Turkish grocery shops should focus on fresh,
regional, healthy, organic, as well as fast food and convenience food. Quality checks
should be conducted as some students found mouldy next to fresh fruit. Some students
recommend offering premium products and specialties like air-freighted fruit and shisha
tobacco, while others recommend focusing on essentials and offering core products and
well-known brands at competitive prices (“Turkish shops should stay real Turkish
shops.”). In order not to lose business, Turkish retailers ought to check if this is
compatible with their traditional customers and conduct a thorough sales and market
basket analysis using data mining (e.g., Laudon and Laudon, 2012). This could also
reveal opportunities for cross-selling. Some flower shops, for example, offer chocolates
and alcoholic beverages besides flowers as these products tend to be bought together on
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different shopping missions. Likewise, Turkish retailers could sell tobacco and water
pipes. The students expect an extended product line with German labels, matching their
tastes and presented attractively (“I want to find the brands I usually buy.”).
Turkish retailers are often not noticed by the German students as they are
inconveniently located and “do not even advertise with inexpensive flyers”. Some
Turkish retailers might promote their grocery shops as one retail chain under a joint
name, with bonus point programs, student discounts and giveaways such as “a trip to
Turkey for every 1,000th customer”. However, these options should be checked against
an Every-Day-Low-Prices strategy, especially since it contributes to leaner logistics
(Lee et al., 2004) and promotion strategies succeeding in mass markets may not be
suitable in ethnic retail (Kaufman 1991).
The students recommend making the processes more efficient and effective by Turkish
retailers collaborating with each other, especially in purchasing and marketing, with
other ethnic shops and German grocery shops. They also propose adapting processes
according to German retail standards and introducing modern merchandise management
systems. This approach, however, could endanger the distinguishing features between
German and Turkish food retailers and losing the unique selling proposition of “uncle
Mehmet shops”.
Overall, the students show similar response patterns. However, logistics management
students seem to focus more on processes, in particular in procurement, trade
management students on marketing and factors that demotivate shoppers, industrial
management students more on the products, and business informatics students less on
human resource qualifications. Thus, we attained our goal by asking working students
of different business majors to capture both their subjective opinions as the targeted
well-funded consumers as well as their professional opinion and give a more holistic
view of the subject matter.

4.3 Managerial implications

While the businessmen who were interviewed primarily focus on professionalization,
collaboration especially in purchasing associations, and brand building, they neglect
how important service, shopping experience, shop location, design and layout, product
range adjustment, and promotion is to the well-funded target group of German students
in their early twenties.
In contrast to strategic collaboration and brand building, changes in customer service,
shop appearance, advertising and product line can be implemented on a short term basis
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without much financial investment and be very effective in reaching new German
customers. The businessmen and students agree that Turkish food retailers may not be
able to improve their situation by themselves, but through collaborations, advertising
and marketing to other than their traditional customers, product line alterations, and
process optimizations.
The results from the qualitative research we conducted are summarized in the value
chain of opportunities for Turkish food retail in Germany (figure 5). The results of the
student survey are set in italics.
Turkish and other ethnic (especially Arabic) consumers become more and more
important to both Turkish and German food retail because of their increasing share in
the population.
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Figure 5: Opportunities of the Turkish Food Value Chain in Germany from the
Experts’ and Students’ Perspective

4.4 Research and societal implications

We are providing a first study of the previously “black box” Turkish or ethnic retail in
Germany and hope this motivates further scientific research on this topic. Due to the
current migration flows into Germany, the subject is likely to gain more importance for
the economy, for society, and science. A panel discussion with a Turkish food retail
chain owner, a retail and service association’s representative, and a channel manager of
a leading non-alcoholic beverage producer led by the alphabetically first mentioned
author as part of the ‘Kölner Themenjahr 2015’ on 29 April 2015 supported our findings
and highlighted the importance of this topic.
The consumption motives found in the international literature should be further
investigated for consumers of Turkish origin in Germany so that the Turkish retailers
can address them better, keep their traditional customers and win young and well-
funded customers back. Thus Sunkyu et al. (1993), for example, recommend advertising
which targets the process of acculturation instead of cultural identity, Erdem and
Schmidt (2008) recommend emphasizing family values and using Turkish language,
media, and employees to gain trust of Turkish-German consumers, and Abedin and
Brettel (2011a, 2011b) recommend considering religious principles and rules important
to consumption behaviour and aiming at the usability of the product instead of
materialistic features. Aygün (2005) already discovered that observing religious rules
pertaining to meat and related products such as gelatine significantly influences the
decision to shop in a Turkish instead of a German grocery shop for most Turkish-
Germans. With the increasing number of immigrants, this trend is likely to continue. In
2009, there were at the most 2.6 million Turkish and 1.7 million Muslims from other
countries in Germany (Haug et al., 2009). Since then the number of Muslims in
Germany has increased and is expected to increase further (Lill 2015).
Likewise, German customers’ motives for shopping in Turkish grocery shops should be
further scrutinized to also gain new customers from the majority society (cf. Parzer and
Czingon, 2013). As the experts interviewed considered German students an attractive
target group, we started analysing these consumers. Further research should survey
further consumer groups, such as householders who go grocery shopping once a week.
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Even though customers without a Turkish background also shop at Turkish food
retailers in Germany, especially for fresh fruit, vegetables and Turkish specialty
products, and Turkey being a popular holiday destination, consumption behaviour of
Germans and Turkish-Germans differ significantly (Anzengruber, 2008; Aygün, 2005;
Valiente and Yetgin, 2006). This might hamper retaining traditional Turkish-German
customers, regaining young ones, and winning new German customers at the same time.
Further research could shed light on this challenge.
Furthermore, our results could be compared and applied to small and unorganized
corner shops in the U. S. and U. K. and the so-called ‘bakkals’ in Turkey, as they face
similar conditions (e.g., Jamal, 2003; Jamal, 2005; Altinay and Altinay, 2008; Erkip et
al., 2013).
Our research could also be extended by studying individual steps of the Turkish food
supply and value chain in more detail, such as the role of wholesale.
Finally, further research could study how local politics can support Turkish food
retailers in improving their economic situation, so that they can fulfil their social
function besides their debated (Floeting et al., 2005) economic function. With the influx
of Muslim immigrants into Germany, the integrative, social, and cultural function of
Turkish food retailers (Floeting et al., 2005) is likely to become even more important.

5 Conclusion

Turkish food retail in Germany is threatened by shifts in demand and in competition.

Although it fulfils social, cultural, and economic functions there has been little research
on its challenges and opportunities. Therefore, we interviewed 18 experts from different
parts of the Turkish food supply chain in Germany and surveyed 349 working Bachelor
students of trade, industrial, and logistics management as well as business informatics to
gain a more holistic, interdisciplinary, and practice-oriented view of the challenges and
opportunities of Turkish food retailers from a value chain perspective.
In contrast to German food retailers, Turkish as well as other ethnic retailers in other
countries only acquire their products from wholesalers and not directly from producers.
While the businessmen we interviewed focus primarily on professionalization,
collaboration especially in purchasing associations, and brand building, they neglect
how important welcoming customer service in fluent German, shopping experience,
shop location, design and layout, product range adjustment, and promotion are to the
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targeted well-funded group of German management students in their early twenties.

Most of these customers’ wishes and needs can be fulfilled short term and without a
large financial burden.
Turkish retail should become more efficient in procurement, sales and marketing, for
example, by considering purchasing associations, modern merchandise management
systems, retail, wholesale and producer co-operatives, supply chain (Hingley et al.,
2010) and crisis management (Floeting et al., 2005), and building a common brand.
Turkish and ethnic food retail and their consumers are becoming more and more
important because of this retail’s integrative, social, cultural, and local food supply
function and the current influx of immigrants and present ample opportunities for
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