Pivoting the Retail Experience to Respond to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has redefined life and work as we have all known it. 24 Seven is speaking with business leaders to learn how to navigate the new reality and plan for what comes next. Edel Jane Panizales is the HR Manager at Läderach, one of Switzerland's largest chocolate retailers. Despite the pandemic, the company has pivoted its existing teams and operations, is moving forward with its North American retail expansion plans (including hiring for their teams), and adjusting for the post-pandemic normal. Here's their story of thriving in the time of Corona:
24 Seven: Tell us a little about your North American expansion plan.
EP: We have approximately 90 stores worldwide, we entered North America last fall. Our first store in North America opened in October in New York, New York. Then a boutique shop in North York, Ontario, and then a store inside CF Toronto Eaton Center in downtown Toronto, both shortly after the New York store opened. We knew we had a fan base in North America, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that the group was larger than we thought.
24 Seven: That’s incredibly positive news right now.
EP: Our leadership is passionate about reminding our team that North America is a growth market for our company. New York is a strong city, Toronto too. Toronto is still blooming. Läderach is here to stay. We're continuing to grow and, of course, recruit strong talent to be part of this expansion.
24 Seven: How is the company adapting operations to the pandemic?
EP: We are preparing for the new way of retail business. We are carefully planning for and already implementing enhanced health and safety measures. We are adding in the protective plexiglass barriers at our registers, and we will guide our customers on where to stand for checkout to have some appropriate space between each person. We're applying these new measures fast so that we're ready to open the stores as soon as restrictions are lifted. We're excited to get back to spreading joy through chocolate. Whether our chocolate is wanted for a special occasion or a gift for someone special or as a treat for yourself, we will be happy to do that again, beyond our online shop.
24 Seven: Have you been selling chocolate during this time, and how is the company managing teams?
EP: Yes. I'm happy to say that food e-commerce and logistics order fulfillment is considered "essential." We have our e-commerce team working, plus some of our retail team has joined e-commerce operations. We have offered Lyft and Uber as an option for their commute. Work stations are distanced, the products we're selling online are pre-sealed and packaged products. Our VP of Marketing and I have been coming in to show support for our team. Also, our President helped our Canada team with inventory management and order fulfillment. It's been about being in this and getting through this together.
24 Seven: As we conduct interviews with business leaders, we hear how much more communication is vital at this time.
EP: It's important to keep the team carefully informed and to help make sure that those who are working for us are in safe environments, and those who couldn't work for whatever reason (mainly because of compromised health conditions or living situations) know their options. We've had to change how we usually meet. We are using Microsoft Team teams and WhatsApp for video calls. Right now, the rules are modified. But we've pivoted because we have no plans to be on the sidelines.
24 Seven: What are some of the changes you are envisioning for what comes next?
EP: There are lots of talks regarding new ways of handling chocolate sampling. This is happening not only in our store or other chocolate shops but throughout the food industry. We are enhancing health and safety measures, and we plan for more frequent training around these topics. We are happy to implement these changes. It's better for our customers and our team and our brand as a whole.
24 Seven: You mentioned adding to your team right now. Tell us more about that.
EP: We added a couple of e-commerce team members, especially to help with the influx of orders for Easter and Mother's Day. We are still pushing ahead with our retail expansion, and we are actively recruiting for that.
24 Seven: Is working with a staffing partner even more critical at this time?
EP: Absolutely. My priority is ensuring the safety of our essential team, and other HR-related issues need more focus and attention. I wish I had more time to sift through the resumes we are getting, but other pressing topics need care. 24 Seven is important to me. I have absolute trust in the talent 24 Seven is bringing to the table. I continue to have a fantastic recruiting experience working with my 24 Seven team. If I were relying just on myself, and even if I had dedicated recruiting on board, I still would not have the reach to candidates that 24 Seven does. The team I work with at 24 Seven respects the cadence of our needs. If my inbox is flooded and time is not on my side, and I need a pause on receiving resumes, 24 Seven will figure out a more effective way to get talent in front of me. I really appreciate it when my 24 Seven team alerts me of candidates that I need to move on fast. I don't want to lose top talent because I'm in other meetings.
24 Seven: It sounds like your company has a high growth, all-hands-on-deck type of culture. What else would you say about your culture that has made you weather the storm right now and feel like you're going to come out stronger on the other side?
EP: Not only our managers but our entire team, at any level of position, has a seat at the table. Our entry position as a Store Associate is beyond greeting customers, packaging orders, or ringing up sales—your input matters at our company, especially within our rapidly growing North America team. I recognize, but especially our company President does as well, the dedication of our team. We make it a priority to let our team know that.We are fortunate to work for a company where our input and ideas are heard. We are very lucky to be part of a company that frequently reminds us that there are no plans to back out of any of the upcoming projects and expansion plans. By the end of summer, we have two more stores opening up, one of which will be a flagship. Not only does this company give you job security, but it also provides an opportunity to rise to the occasion and shine. We offer our retail teams an opportunity to grow, whether it is growing in the vertical of retail, being part of the e-commerce team, or another opportunity within the company.
24 Seven: This is such a bright spot of employment news at this time.
EP: It's a great time to be part of or to join our company. It's an environment where we trust one another and believe we can accomplish more together. We're empowered here, talent and contribution are recognized and rewarded with growth opportunity. I'm happy to be a part of Läderach and I am grateful to be part of our team's professional journey.For additional insights and resources to help navigate today's market, click here.