Everyday life in store during COVID-19: Sweden

In Sweden our stores have remained open throughout the coronavirus pandemic. However, many have reduced their opening hours, and staff have often had to work alone. “Every day our customers tell us they want to support us and that we’re doing a good job,” says Alicia Almborg, store manager in Avesta. The coronavirus pandemic is hitting our sales hard. But our colleagues in stores are fighting every day to provide customers with continued good service. This four-part series of articles gives you the chance to meet some of them. Today we meet Alicia Almborg, store manager in Avesta, Sweden. In what way has the pandemic changed your work situation? “With the reduction in working hours I spend most of my day working alone, and this has meant that I have had to change my priorities. Initially it was a challenge to let myself put certain things to one side to make it easier to give my full attention to customers. But in the end you adapt quite quickly to a new way of life, and your priorities also fall into this routine.” Alicia says that the store has adopted a range of safety measures to minimise the risk of infection. Among other things, there are now distance markers around the checkouts, and notices asking everyone in store to consider their distance to others. They also have hand sanitizer in the checkout queue. “I often sanitize the card readers, and we use gloves at the checkout. In our store we have chosen to keep our fitting rooms open, which many of our customers have appreciated in their feedback. Howerver, we also have notices on our extended returns period, so the customer can decide for themselves if they would prefer to try on clothes at home.” Do you feel safe at work? “Yes, I do. Customers take very different approaches to the distancing. Some have a slightly relaxed attitude to the restrictions, while others are very concerned, so it does happen that both customers and I might ask other customers to step back slightly to maintain a distance.” The store in Avesta, which Alicia manages, is one of many that has had to limit its opening hours during the pandemic. However, given the circumstances, Alicia is still positive about her work situation. “My colleagues in store and I have a close dialogue, and we are understanding about the situation. Together we decided quite quickly that we would contribute in our own way and keep up our positive attitude and team spirit for our customers’ sake, and that we would help each other through this.” The customers have also been very understanding, she says: “A number of customers come in during the day, and that has helped to create a new type of togetherness in the store. Every day our customers tell us that they want to support us, that we’re doing a good job and that they understand that certain things may take a little longer to do. Our customers care less about our campaigns or mannequins, stock replenishment or seeing boxes full of hangers. Instead, they see those of us who are working on the shop floor, and that interaction is what they appreciate and remember. I’m very grateful for that energizing support from our customers!” Do you have any tips for your colleagues during this time? “I would probably give them the same advice that I gave myself: dare to think outside the box and see new opportunities, and don’t get bogged down by thinking that you have to do everything yourself. While some days will be tougher than others, I think it’s important not to be too hard on yourself. Allow yourself to make mistakes, and ask for help when you need it!” In a few days’ time you’ll get to read about what it’s like to work in a store in Finland during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we meet Satu Sarantaus, store manager in Helsinki. Keep an eye on KappAhl Blog! Posted by Elina Bratt Lejring