More than just a hashtag, the Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in a new attitude characterised by the phrase “We are all in this together.”  As we shift back to a new normal, it will be important to learn from the experience and unity we created during this time. Collaboration and cross-learning is integral so we are introducing a new series of insights from retail and leisure professionals starting with Bettina Wewetzer – Senior Retail Manager at designer outlets Wolfsburg.

The only urban outlet centre in Germany, designer outlets Wolfsburg has now reopened and the team have taken a careful and considered approach in what is a hugely difficult situation for shopping centre and outlet operators. Bettina Wewetzer is however confident that customers can look forward to an enjoyable experience, whilst still maintaining social distancing.

“We are in the fortunate position of being able to open our doors again. We reopened on the 22nd April with a quick turnaround – just three days to get everything going and to transform what is a sensitive and unnerving topic into a fun experience as much as possible.”

The reopening strategy combines a focus on one-to-one service and limiting occupancy in stores to give people plenty of room. “We have reduced our entrances from twelve to four, which are all securely manned so that each customer is personally welcomed. Strong hygiene measures include the wearing of masks, disinfectant, and floor stickers for social distancing. Our modern steel and concrete architecture looks warm with vibrant rainbow coloured chalk signage to guide customers to look after their health. Stores are using things like numbers from the fitting room to manage the amount of people they let in at a time. There is a positive mood in the outlet environment because the customers here really do want to shop.”

Reaching partners and customers with reliable, relevant information is invaluable in normal times to improve operations and profitability, and it is proving particularly crucial now for critical communications. The designer outlets Wolfsburg recently implemented Retail Advantage to collect and connect data across the site. “We have actively used it as a team for a while, but we are just going live with the brands with the reopening, so we are still at the beginning in terms of exploring the KPI analysis and heat mapping tools. We used to provide all communications to brands over email, and now Retail Advantage has become our true platform for sharing information.”  

Sharing knowledge and experience is arguably more important than ever, so how does Bettina build community with the team and tenants? “We are in a unique position in the fact that we are an individual platform, one location and with that comes a small team of twenty people in all,” she says, “communication is very direct and we have daily contact with brands to keep in touch with team changes, products, pricing and deliveries.”  They keep close connection with tools like a news flash distribution featuring the monthly calendar, marketing events and promotions. “We are a close-knit community and have a personal way of doing things, such as providing all brands with specially designed masks, and little easter bunny gestures even though we were closed.”

So, what advice would Bettina give herself before starting her career in retail? “You should always give what you want to receive. Take things with a pinch of salt and have fun” she says. “We are very grateful that none of us have been directly affected by coronavirus, and it is important to remember the bigger picture as everything else will fall into place.  I like to keep a glass half full attitude.”

Bettina Wewetzer – Senior Retail Manager at designer outlets Wolfsburg

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