In 2020, the novel COVID-19 virus became a backdrop for nearly the entire year. Unfortunately, it affected our business in many ways. Stay-at-home orders protected peoples’ health to the best of governments’ abilities but created a complicated situation for store retailers. This is why we all had to quickly adapt to a 'new normal.'
Creating a responsive Task Force
Since the pandemic hit Europe, GrandVision strengthened its financial discipline to keep our business running while focusing on customer and employee safety. We created a cross-functional, in-house expert Task Force to develop a cohesive plan to continue safely running our global optical retail business with great success during a challenging time. This team operated under the following priorities:
- Care: Protection of our staff and customers
- Cash: Preservation of the liquidity situation for the Company
- Continuity: Continued balance between cost discipline and cash preservation with investments in important strategic initiatives
Guided by these priorities, we focused on our people, customers, stakeholders and the Company's financial health. Our thorough scenario-planning and establishment of a central Task Force to ensure clarity of communication and fast response time were vital drivers of this success.
Adapting to new consumer behaviors
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted consumer behavior for the optical retail industry and other industries, too.
And thanks to continued investment in our established omnichannel strategy, including a focus on e-commerce and innovations like our advanced appointment booking tool, we offered our customers the possibility to still engage with us, online and instore. They were able to purchase the same products they know and love from our websites instead of in our stores. They have also been able to conveniently access information about eyecare, see which local stores were open for eye exams and make appointments to safely visit stores.
To illustrate our performance, in 2020, we saw an 85% increase in retail brand related e-commerce sales. We also realized higher customer conversion in our stores and more evenly-distributed traffic flow throughout the week, which was partly driven by increased online appointment bookings. In turn, these led to an increase in store productivity.
Opened for essential and emergency care
Although government regulations across Europe, South America and North America led to many temporary store closures from March to June 2020, opticians and optical retailers in some markets were considered essential healthcare providers.
Where we were able to operate our stores safely, we outfitted them with COVID-19-specific safety measures to reduce person-to-person contact as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect store employees and customers. Customers could only visit these stores by appointment, which they booked using our omnichannel platform. In total, we were able to keep about 40% of our stores partially open during peak lockdown status.
By late autumn, the first signs of European markets affected by the second wave of COVID-19 appeared as governments re-introduced stricter measures to contain the spread of the virus. We had gained valuable experience during the first wave and used the developed best practices to safely keep our stores open and maintain a strong 2020 performance during the second wave.
Ensured our employees and customers safety and well-being during a global pandemic
Throughout 2020, our store employees felt safe thanks to the careful measures we put in place to protect them. We established clear safety measures, delivered PPEs to our stores for employees and customers, and adjusted the instore eye exam process for employees and customers with a smooth and safe experience.
We are proud to report that our latest GrandVision employee NPS survey scores have increased, which validates the positive employee satisfaction in the face of such challenging factors.
In 2020, despite the global pandemic, we not only kept our GrandVision employees and customers safe, we also won many employer and retailer awards within GrandVision, including 'Retailer of the Year,' 'Great Place to Work,' and 'Best Customer Service.' (See Section 3.1 'Our many customer touchpoints' for more information about our awards.)