From a bicycle with a basket to a drugstore empire

Dirk Rossmann
For me it is also important not to give up too early. Dirk Rossmann

The founder of our drugstores, Dirk Rossmann (born in 1946), keeps saying that "he is friendly as a person, but unpleasant as a competitor". He loves faded jeans but hates ties.

He was born in a family of entrepreneurs in Hanover. He grew up in a housing estate of 50 single-family houses on the outskirts of the city. His paternal grandparents had a pharmacy. He was just 12 when he made his first money. As he later recalled in "Der Tagesspiegel": "My parents had a pharmacy, but prices were regulated by law. I was 12 years old and I managed to beg my mother to sell products 10 percent cheaper than others. I cleaned my home pantry to have a place for storing goods. Every Friday I got on my bike with a basket and toured our neighbours along the street. Sometimes I just gave them a discount coupon. I quickly achieved the level of over a thousand marks of monthly sales. Today I know that it was actually off the books."

He was 14 years old when he started to learn to be a pharmacist. He did not go to college because, as he mentioned, he wanted to take over the family business. - I didn't understand what the teachers wanted from me, I didn't like getting up early. If I have a morning flight, in the evening I already have a bad mood. I know that discipline is important, but somehow I don't particularly like it - as he said in an interview with “Handelsblatt” in 2009.

Dirk Rossmann

He was 18 when he bought his first apartment. In 1972, when the government released prices for cosmetics and chemistry (for the so-called ‘Drogeriewaren’) he opened his firs drugstore, which was the first self-service drugstore in Germany (200 sq. m.). So many customers rushed to visit the store that at the end of the day there were 20 thousand, instead of the expected 2-3 thousand marks.

Ten years later, Dirk Rossmann already owned 100 drugstores in northern Germany. Years later, in an interview with Die Welt, he admitted that it was economic freedom that had contributed to the success of his company. - It can be said that Rossmann and other drugstore chains that were established later on the market were founded because companies were given the freedom to decide on prices independently - he assessed.

Ten years later, Dirk Rossmann already owned 100 drugstores in northern Germany. Years later, in an interview with Die Welt, he admitted that it was economic freedom that had contributed to the success of his company. - It can be said that Rossmann and other drugstore chains that were established later on the market were founded because companies were given the freedom to decide on prices independently - he assessed.

He still likes to refer to Schopenhauer in his interviews. For Handelsblatt he said: "Schopenhauer once said that people are not successful because they give up too soon. For me, it's also important not to give up too early."

Perhaps this philosophy saved his family business in the 90’s. "Everyone who achieved success knows critical situations," Dirk Rossmann used to tell reporters.

And these are not empty words. In the early 90's Dirk Rossmann confessed: "I speculated on the stock exchange, sometimes I won, sometimes I lost, and my enterprise suffered as a result" (these words are quoted by the economic website impulse.de).

Dirk Rossmann

"Augsburger Allgemeine" alleged that in the 90’s Rossmann often on Fridays didn’t know if he would have enough money to pay wages on Monday. A few years later, Dirk Rossmann said that his wife Alice was supporting him at that time. They have been married for 33 years. He reached for markets in Eastern Europe and in 1993 opened his first store in Łódź. The introduction of private label brands also proved to be helpful.

When journalists ask if he is thrifty, he replies that he has a nice Mercedes, but, nevertheless, he drives the same car up to eight years or longer, as he doesn't really understand why people change cars every four years.

I'm not tight-fisted, but I just don't need many things. Give me a good book and that's enough for me.Dirk Rossmann in an interview with Handelsblatt in 2009.

He eagerly accepts invitations to German television programs because he is annoyed by the stereotypical way of representing rich people. - My wife and I don't have any villa abroad or a private plane. We live in a house we built over 30 years ago. There are many wealthy people who have just remained sane, he says.

The German economic magazine "Wirtschaftswoche" wrote about him in 2014: "He has no private jet, no Rolls-Royce, nobody’s heard about his escapades. Dirk Rossmann is a billionaire who willingly pays taxes." In the same year the German media reported: "Dirk Rossmann demands higher taxes for the rich." - Taxes should be paid fairly - and the rich should pay a little more than before. If the legislator says: "Such are the taxes," they must be paid by everyone,” as quoted by daily Hannoversche Allgemeine. The daily wrote: "For Rossmann, paying taxes fairly is a premise for the whole society." Dirk Rossmann emphasizes that the principle of social balance between the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor is particularly important to him. Especially the rich and the poor - this is crucial. - The social market economy, as Ludwig Erhard invented it once, is very important to me - he likes to repeat.

Dirk Rossmann is a tennis and Skat enthusiast and a co-owner of the local football club in Hanover. He has two sons. Both are on the board of the family business.


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