As one of three northern German metropolises, Hannover has also had a wholesale market since the Middle Ages. As the need for space steadily increased, the market was moved to its current location at Am Tönniesberg in 1958. Started in 1958 with 70,000 m², today the marketplace spans 230,000 m², mainly trading in fresh food. Today, around 80 market companies handle 1,000 tons of fresh goods per night at Großmarkt Hannover. More than 1,000 people work on the entire site.
Despite these impressive figures, the trading hub in the west of Hannover is faced with today's challenges such as the pandemic, staff shortages and more. We spoke with Jörn Böttcher, the current managing director of Großmarkt Hannover Ltd, about the
status quo and the longer-term prospects for the fresh food center.
Jörn Böttcher, Managing Director of Großmarkt Hannover Ltd / Image: © EY MEISTER!
In contrast to many other fresh produce centers in Germany, Großmarkt Hannover is an independent limited liability company, owned by the wholesalers and direct marketers who are based there, as shareholders. At the end of the 1990s, the central transshipment point, where a large part of the traders and producers are located, was completely roofed over. A total of 18,000 m² of covered open space is available to buyers from the food retail, catering and weekly market trade sectors. That means year-round dry feet for both shoppers and traders. Furthermore, the central transshipment point is considered one of the largest covered open spaces in Europe.
New renovations and expansion of services
In the past years, the trading area was redeveloped in several places. In 2015, both the renovation work on the flower hall and a change in the disposal system for the free delivery of cardboard/paper, foils, untreated wood and plastics for traders were completed. A few years later, the roadway lighting was converted to LEDs. The sustainability concept is also taken into account, via the company's own recycling center. The range of services at the 230,000 m2 site is completed by a 50-ton scale, delivery service, storage areas, cold storage areas, a central power supply, a service station and other numerous services.
Aerial view of the central, covered transhipment center
The hub of regional fresh produce deliveries
With a pronounced weekly market culture with around 40 markets in the Hannover region, market stallholders have always been an important customer group of the wholesale market. The rest of the customer base is made up of stationary food retailers and restaurants/hotels. Böttcher: "Overall, our market companies weathered the Corona crisis well, with weekly market trade and stationary trade attracting more attention at the expense of the catering trade. Overall, more fresh goods were traded during the pandemic than before. From a longer-term perspective, the number of traditional walk-in customers who buy their goods locally, is visibly diminishing. Meanwhile, delivery is rapidly gaining in importance; across the entire wholesale market, around 140 trucks are in operation every day to deliver the goods from the wholesale market to the customer on time."
Generational change is imminent
Even though, as in many businesses, staff shortages are a constant problem, generational change is not. In numerous companies at the Großmarkt Hannover, a new generation is already in the starting blocks, currently supporting the previous one. In some cases, this change takes place over several years, so that the customer hardly notices it. "Here in Hannover, we are in the fortunate position that succession has already been secured for a significant portion of our market companies," Böttcher explains. "This is partly due to our somewhat different structure, as our market companies are also shareholders of the Großmarkt. This creates a very different kind of family relationship."
Fresh faces at the Hannover wholesale market.
At other companies, efforts are being made to recruit the next generation of employees, Böttcher continues. "A good example is the Lotze company, which continuously trains junior staff. As a service provider serving our traders, we promote such initiatives."
In addition, Böttcher points to the continuous full utilization of the premises and rental booths. "Wholesale Aram, run by three brothers from Syria, is a pure success story in this respect. Just two years after it was founded, they recently opened a second location at the wholesale market. In my opinion, this is a sign that the wholesale market continues to be attractive for young entrepreneurs. In this respect, we see ourselves very well equipped for the future."
Aerial photos: © marvin rust