How has the crisis affected your market?
The pandemic has had a major impact on retail overall. All sales of “unnecessary” goods dropped significantly during lockdown, for obvious reasons. We are talking a drop of up to 80% in consumption in all markets.
The associated supply chain, including the manufacturing market, is equally affected. Another consequence is that storerooms are now full of unsold products, creating a new challenge moving forward.
Ecommerce has also suffered but it has proven to be an alternative, including for brands. It is also creating a renewed commitment to technology-based solutions across the entire supply chain. The need to meet the demands of an online retail market and the pivot many textile companies made to creating PPE has provided a large-scale stress test of manufacturing agility and efficiency.
COVID-19 is presenting new and unprecedented challenges for the economy and the way we do business. It is also giving companies across the fashion, furniture, and automotive markets an opportunity to rethink how they create more resilient, transparent and flexible processes. The need for systems that meet changing consumer demands is a must for companies to set themselves up for long-term success.
Would you say we will try to go back to normal as quickly as possible or do you think we will need to rethink the world post-COVID-19?
It is probably a bit of both. We all want to go back to work and have our normal lives back. Businesses need to go back to a normal pace as soon as possible for economic reasons too. However, the reality is that interactions between people, at work and in our business environment have changed profoundly.
This pandemic and the resultant economic instability shows us where we need to be smarter from a business perspective.
We have talked a lot about why we need smart technologies, which is to achieve the agility required to respond to market demands and business challenges; now it is about how to do it as soon as possible, not why anymore. The companies that can maintain quality, control, speed and efficiency through adversity and can adapt to market shifts more rapidly than anyone could have predicted will be better-positioned for success. For furniture and fashion, the demand-driven model is increasingly going to dominate the industry, while automotive will similarly need technology that responds quickly to new consumer trends.
What has the crisis changed for you or what have you learned personally?
It has made us all understand how fragile we are as people and as an organization. In a few weeks, this world can change completely. You cannot take anything for granted. We were all reminded that the health and safety of those around us should always be the most important thing in all of our personal and business decisions. We all knew that, of course, but the crisis has made this real for people and companies alike.
In addition, sustainability is not just a word anymore; this crisis has definitely shown how fragile we are globally. Generation Z is about to take power and they will undoubtedly remember this event.
From a business perspective, COVID-19 has made us understand that there is no market stability and we should have been better prepared for a new economic downturn. It is a wake-up call for how prepared we need to be, but it has also been inspiring to see how many people and companies have acted selflessly to help their neighbors, communities and industries weather the storm. It is a time of challenges and learning for all of us. I am convinced this is for the best.