A crazy year is slowly coming to an end. Especially for the retail sector there were several challenges to manage. But these also brought new creative ideas and solutions for the coming year - also for the retailer "colour and more" in Rostock, Germany. The product range spans several industries with varying market conditions. Among them are crafting materials, art supplies, school bags, and office and school supplies.
In an interview, owner Jörg Busse tells us about his experiences from 2020 and his goals for next year with colour and more.
Insights-X: What is something you will remember from this special year? What have you learned so far?
Jörg Busse: 2020 will probably stay in mind as an extremely varied year full of learning experiences. When we had to close up shop in March, the world seemed to be falling apart. All of a sudden, our main revenue was zero and the costs continued. Then we really got to know all of our partners. For example, our landlord showed no mercy whatsoever and has since then even raised our rent by 10%. On the flip side of the coin, however, the financial authorities surprised us with immediate assistance, understanding and a motivating letter of deferment of payment. I think I will have to get that framed. Even though our suppliers also took a big hit, most of the time we experienced a very cooperative business environment.
Although we are not very experienced in online retail, we used the support from our association DUO Schreib und Spiel and sold products via their DUO marketplace. Which is what saved us from drowning in debt in the time being. Webinars determined our exchange of information. Even though they are not a replacement for actual face-to-face contact, they save time and money. We will continue to make use of many of them in the future.
Are there things that you changed in 2020 which you plan on keeping that way for the years to come, or even want to build upon?
J. B.: I reassessed and reconsidered our business as a whole in the past couple of months. We are gradually developing plans which we will use as orientation in the future - what we will focus on and what we will leave behind us. I noticed how important it is to be able to focus on the things that matter. It is now essential for me/us to bring back the fun we should be having by working in our industry. To finally find the time to really enjoy the experience of working with our products. And to do that despite all of the bureaucratic time killers such as packaging regulations or new requirements for retailers because of the newly introduced cash register regulation. Because of this, I established three additional apprenticeship jobs – now, of all times! In addition to general commercial staff, we are now also training a businesswoman for office communications and two businessmen for e-commerce. I even managed to think about personal wellbeing and have now successfully rebalanced my diet.
Our business hours have changed, now we are open until 7 pm instead of 8 pm. Customer frequency did not change along with that and our families are happier for it. We now have a team meeting before we open shop at least once every 14 days, where we talk about our intentions. We have now also started carrying out product trainings again, in which our employees can also take part online. Tasks concerning further digitalisation that have until recently been put on hold are now high on the priority list and are gradually being taken care of.
What do you think is waiting for the stationery industry in 2021?
J. B.: I expect numerous changes in the market next year. The coronavirus is not to blame for them, but it is drastically accelerating the unstoppable process. Downtown areas will die out and become less interesting for retail. The few and expensive parking options are pushing customers to the outskirts of the city. Free-of-charge public transportation will reduce the downtown traffic a little bit, but will not lead the customer flow back into town. Exorbitant leasing prices in downtown areas leave individual retailers with no choice. In addition, the ongoing demise of major department stores is lowering the appeal of going out and spending time in shopping streets.
We see ourselves as a local supplier. However, we are now forced to consider how much longer we can afford the costs of being located downtown.
Online mail order companies are continuously conducting price-aggressive marketing. Without having any connection to the products, their worth, and the idea behind them, they are dishonouring them. And that is where I see the long-term danger for manufacturers. Have-been manufacturers of ambitious, high-quality goods are disappearing from the market or hiding behind any one of the numerous financial corporations, thereby losing their identity.
What goals do you have for Colour and More in the coming year?
J. B.: I believe we have a chance because of our expertise and flexibility in adapting to new conditions. Our team is primarily full of enthusiasm for our product range, which they actively pass on to our customers. We are full of ideas. While we are still proceeding with a certain amount of caution and waiting to see how the situation develops, we have set an emphasis on the further education of our employees.
Thank you for the interview, Jörg Busse.