Regions around the world have been emerging into a new normal post-COVID-19 in recent weeks. Countries across Europe are now following China and easing shelter-in-place restrictions and opening doors. As more of our stores open across Europe, we connected with Lucia Marcuzzo, vice president of our Central Europe Cluster, to learn more about how things have been going as business returns to a new normal.
Where have stores reopened?
The first owned-and-operated store to reopen in Europe was the factory outlet in Parndorf, Austria. In the following three weeks we have opened hundreds of owned-and-operated and franchise stores in Central Europe.
Are stores operating on a different schedule and staff level right now?
Almost all stores are operating with reduced teams as well as reduced hours. We’re carefully monitoring traffic in order to adjust staff schedules.
How has business been?
Traffic has been significantly slower but it’s also within our expectations. Consumers who are coming into stores are much more focused on purchasing. We have seen that consumer sentiment is very good, people are happy to go back to a kind of “normal” life. And they feel safe, comfortable and welcome in our stores with all the measures we put in place and a team providing professional service.
Overall, mainline doors are performing better on average than factory outlets. This isn’t surprising as Factory outlet villages are more of a destination, requiring a car to get to them, and often located at country borders in order to cater to cross-border shopping. We anticipate that the business will be back when travel restrictions ease.
Even though traffic at factory outlets is down compared to mainline, the team has made heroic efforts to test new ways of selling products that make the best out of the situation. Our staff is highly motivated and passionate to return back to work. Our teams adapted very quickly to new ways of working and we see that the dedication and loyalty for our brand is just awesome.
How have things changed in the stores? Are we engaging with consumers in different ways than before?
Local and regional retail teams worked together to create a “Rebound Retail Pack,” which is a guide to basically everything you need and need to know to operate stores safely and successfully in this new environment. All those measures ensure that we respect the social distancing and the hygiene for the safety of our staff and the consumers. As part of these guidelines, stylists are wearing masks, monitoring maximum capacity inside the stores and ensuring social distancing as well as welcoming consumers at store entrances, offering each consumer the option to browse freely in the store or be served directly by retail staff. Surprisingly, the majority of consumers opt for a fully assisted service and are at ease in the stores.
How is staff morale?
Our store staff is very motivated to go back to work and grateful for the training and tools provided during the lockdown. It is really amazing to see how much our stylists are committed to the company and the brand.
What does the road ahead look like?
We will continue monitoring closely the local authorities’ guidelines, the evolution of traffic and the consumer’s behavior in order to adjust our business to this evolving situation.
Obviously, there is still a ways to go and the recovery is slow, but we get encouraging signs from the consumers ever day, and we can count on our very professional and motivated retail team to help us emerge stronger.