Challenges and opportunities – the roadmap for successful business

Exclusive Interview – Jochen Pohle, Head of Business Unit EK Home 

The support of members during Covid-19 lockdown has been one of the biggest challenges for EK/servicegroup. We asked Jochen Pohle, Head of Business Unit EK Home how the organisation tackled the issue.

Even in the run-up to the business closures, we informed the dealers about the immediate measures to secure liquidity, such as talks with banks and landlords, and provided them with the corresponding sample letters on topics such as short-time work, exemption regulations, immediate assistance, tax hours, etc.

The suspension of invoice settlements was then certainly one of the most effective measures to ease the tight liquidity situation. At the same time, it was of course a question of boosting e-business. Within a very short time, we installed online shops with the dealers, pushed the connection to our own and external marketplaces such as Amazon and ran advertising campaigns – especially on social media. The message here: “We’re here for you online.”

We then accompanied the restart with an extensive range of services, including health care. This included the checklist for health prevention as well as the supply of breathing masks, cough protection or disinfectant stands and the expansion of contactless payment options. And the video tutorial on the production of self-made mouth-nose protection masks was not missing either.

What will be the secrets to successful business in the coming months?
The most important thing is that in the fight against the virus, we do not allow ourselves to slacken our distance and hygiene measures. Furthermore, the current situation shows us that we need to become more flexible in many areas. What is required is a better understanding of customer needs and much faster adaptation to changes in consumer behaviour in times of crisis. To achieve this, we need to get even closer to our customers, especially digitally. At the same time, it is necessary to think and act much more quickly when determining assortments and delivery times.

Which product groups are moving best at the moment?
In times of home office, the retreat into the private sphere and the questioning of basic attitudes to life, products that make the home more beautiful and more comfortable are booming. In addition, there are articles that support work from your home desk. We are seeing exceptionally good development in kitchens and accessories. Large and small electrical appliances are also doing well.

What products do you expect to be the “sweet spots” for Christmas? 
In these times, people want more than ever for themselves and their loved ones to be doing well. We therefore expect that there will be a strong demand for wellness articles and technical equipment with the right mix of functionality and emotional added value at Christmas.

What are your thoughts about the fact that IFA management has decided to do a “real” show this year, despite all the difficulties?
The rapid expansion of digital sales and communication channels is undoubtedly a positive consequence of the crisis situation, but despite the mask, the personal conversation is irreplaceable. Business between people requires trust, emotions and, from time to time, a shared laugh. Thus, networking in “real life” remains the key to successful entrepreneurship. Of course, always taking all necessary precautions.

Photo: Jochen Pohle, Head of Business Unit EK Home, EK/servicegroup