It’s not only the retailers that are affected by the closure of stores and the decline in footfall due to the spread of Covid-19, but also related entrepreneurs such as visual merchandisers, architects and shop designers. We talked to one of them.
Wolfgang Melzig is managing partner of Cologne- and Aachen-based architecture, design and visual merchandising agency Goldstein Studios. The company was founded in 2018 out of the merger of 3F Design Architecture and Scenario Retail Entertainment. Retail clients include big players such as Intersport and Levi’s as well as individual names such as Paaspop music festival and SneakRs store in Krefeld.
What impact has the epidemic had on your company so far?
The Corona crisis hit us directly after carnival with a positive test case in our own rows. This meant for us immediate quarantine. We had to close our Aachen location for 14 days. These two weeks of total closure at the start of the project implementation confronted us with new challenges. Still, our highest priority was the protection of employees, their families and our customers, of course.
Due to the exceptional situation of the rapidly spreading virus, we have taken measures and adapted our processes. After the first quarantine our project appointments all over Germany were cancelled within two days or suspended for an indefinite time. Today we are not only talking about a postponement, but we are dealing with the cancellation of seasonal projects. Our location in Aachen is specialized in visual merchandising and staging of retail spaces. Since we work directly on site with our teams to implement this design work, we have only little capacity to switch to home office. Preplanning, idea development, concept preparation can now be further implemented or adapted for "the time after". Thus, we use the current time period intensively.
What further consequences do you expect in the coming months and how are you preparing yourself?
We must act decisively now. If our industry stands still, the demand for our services will change abruptly. Still, there is no doubt that ‘retail’ has already started to change long before the Corona crisis.
But every crisis holds opportunities, to adapt and to act. We are working on new concepts to continue offering our service to the market, thus create the ‘desire for shopping experiences’ in a new way. For this purpose we have divided our team into small groups to make sure a certain power and force is maintained in the case of ongoing exceptional situations.
We are in close contact with our customers, the sports and fashion retailers, and are currently creating design packages that customers can work on in a ‘Do it yourself’ manner. That’s only a transitional solution, since you cannot simply put the diversity of creativity into packages.
The ‘desire for fashion’ will noticeably decline, because especially the fast-moving fashion trade depends on consumers to be in a good and relaxed mood.
Public places will continue to be shunned for a very long time to come, including the large stores and shopping centers.
The next weeks, months will change the way we work and live. This will be a great challenge. We are now trying to stand side by side with our employees and customers, and we all hope for a foreseeable easing of the crisis to be back on the floor as soon as possible. Retail lives from and with people.