How COVID Woke up Retail and Drove Lasting Innovation

February 25, 2021

Sarah Tava, Director of Brand Stores at Fjällräven North America, spends her days making sure that her fleet of stores is equipped with what they need. This is no small feat, to begin with, even before the challenges that 2020 brought to the mix.

Still, despite the pandemic, Fjällräven was able to accelerate innovation and accomplish great things. Last year saw the brand open four more stores in major cities in North America. In the height of store closures, Fjällräven was able to keep their employees on board and engaged with ship-from-store capabilities, creating an infrastructure to strengthen store operations even when Covid-19 threatened to cripple it.

At Future Stores Connect 2021, Retail Zipline CEO and Co-Founder Melissa Wong chatted with Sarah about how Fjällräven was able to transform operationally to be more responsive to market demands and meet customers where they were.

Building a Culture of Empowerment

A strong foundation in communication and transparency has set the brand up for success. Sarah remembers her early days in retail when she worked directly on the floor and would receive communications that weren’t quite fully baked. “That would then affect your team, and it would bleed into your sales,” says Sarah. “So I really wanted to bring the theme of communication to Fjällräven. Luckily, with the help of Zipline, especially prior to the pandemic, technology saved us. Our communication has never been stronger. It allows our store managers to have autonomy in how they operate their day-to-day.”

Transparency in communication is crucial when it comes to communicating with stores facing different challenges that might vary from location to location. Zipline’s Survey feature gives Fjällräven visibility to data that allows them to make decisions that reflect the experience of the field in a larger way. “Surveys allow us to do a weekly pulse-check with our team,” says Sarah. “This allows our stores to lead.”

Innovating with Technology to Stay Nimble

By using Retail Zipline,  Fjällräven can provide one source of Covid-directive, which was essential during the height of the pandemic. “Our constant communication chain provided agility and grace through every changing landscape,” says Sarah.

On top of that, Fjällräven used Retail Zipline to take their training completely virtual. “That was a huge change for us in 2020,” says Sarah. “Ironically, the closure of some of our stores allowed our teams to really dive in and do a ton of work around our own development.” By investing their downtime into preparation and proactivity, Fjällräven empowered their store leaders to prepare for reopening. “They were ready to open their stores and welcome guests back into their space. They were able to set up for whatever came their way, from PPE guidelines, new mask policies, and temperature checks of guests walking through their doors. I can only imagine how it would be if we didn’t have a clear communication chain.”

Dynamic Collaboration within the Community

In the beginning, no one had the answers about what proper protocol should entail. So, when we were all facing the unknowns of Covid-19, Sarah decided to lean into the community to crowdsource ideas. Instead of leaving competitors in the dark, Sarah decided to collaborate with leaders of teams at brands like Patagonia, LUSH, and Sephora to open a conversation about how they were facing new challenges.

Sarah’s logic was that, by sharing insights about how teams are innovating, everyone can win. We love when brands bring people together. No one has faced this before, and we’re all testing and learning on the fly as we go. At Zipline, we believe transparency and communication are the cornerstones of success, and innovative brands like Fjällräven are proof that it works.

Inspired to learn more? Watch the session in its entirety!

If you’re looking to innovate your brand’s store execution, Zipline can help. Reach out and book a demo today.

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