Sławomir Giefing on the situation in the industry during the pandemic
Read the interview with the CEO of GJC International, the organizer of RemaDays Warsaw, Mr. Sławomir Giefing.
Not so long ago we were entering the new year with resolutions and business plans for the next 12 months. Now the whole world is in an unprecedented situation, in suspension – we are trying to adapt to extraordinary conditions and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. How do you cope in this difficult time?
Indeed, it seems that regardless of the situation in which this pandemic found us, it is an absolutely unique event. I don’t have any depressing thoughts about it, I would rather describe it as a time to look at the situation and prepare for possible, even radical professional changes, if necessary. Perhaps because of the fact that having been an entrepreneur for so many years, I have been forced to redefine my directions many times, so maybe it is a little easier for me to find myself in a changing environment and accept reality as it is.
In many companies, the current risk of virus transmission and the market situation have forced reorganization of workstations, their functioning – practically overnight. How have you tackled the changes to your operations to ensure the safety of your employees and to comply with formal requirements?
In our company the reorganization has also become necessary. All employees have switched to remote working, which was relatively easy because we had already had some experience of such work, mainly when organizing RemaDays in Kiev, but also in Warsaw. Of course, we realize that working from home requires a new approach, gaining some experience, for example by developing certain rules to ensure that time does not “slip through the fingers”. Here the task mode and verification of the quality of the work performed becomes quite special. I think that it will also be an interesting experience to return to the offices after such a long time of remote work.
How do you assess the situation in the advertising products industry, based on conversations with customers and other market participants?
It varies significantly. A relatively large number of companies, perhaps as much as 20-30% of them, have started to manufacture or are intermediaries in the sale of masks and all other materials helping to control the pandemic. Approximately 50% of companies have already reduced or are planning to reduce employment in their teams. Some companies are intensifying their focus on export opportunities to make up for lost turnover on the domestic market in their balance. Certainly, the negative effects of the pandemic will increase with each subsequent month of this situation.
What is the GJC doing in relation to the virus pandemic – has part of the planned work, projects been postponed? Are any forms of support, assistance to companies in the industry being implemented?
Our activities during this time have three aspects. The first is the social aspect, where we have financially supported hospitals in the nationwide campaign at Siepomaga.pl and local institutions in Poznań and the surrounding area, which found themselves in a very difficult situation. The second area is the activities for access to legal knowledge, which can help companies survive the pandemic, while the third element is the activities related to our products. As early as May we would like to launch a new project, which will be an online tool helping to quickly find and contact suppliers and agencies all over Europe. We believe that this product will be an effective and economical solution, which will prove to be a necessary tool especially at this time.
According to the results of a survey conducted by PIAP, more than 90% of companies from the advertising market recorded a drop in turnover in March. How can a retailer, supplier or manufacturer of promotional gifts handle the situation when there are no events taking place? To which areas can they target their activities?
As I mentioned before, some companies have already expanded their product portfolio with masks etc. Recently I was surprised by a company building trade fair stands, which is located not far from my place of residence. To my surprise, I found a leaflet with the offer of kitchen furniture installation in my mailbox. This shows that active entrepreneurs, managers and employees understand that it is up to them to create new solutions in their companies. I think that in quite a few cases finding new customers in new areas will be a must for the survival of the company.
In what time do you think it’ll be possible to resume trade fairs and events, etc.? Do you think that the currently rescheduled mass events will take place in the summer/autumn?
It is very difficult to answer this question. We certainly all want to get back to normal quickly, but a realistic perspective puts a question mark on the near future of large mass events, especially because of the likely different intensity of the course of the pandemic in different countries. I think the hope that it will all take place in autumn is justified, but we should all have a plan B for possible long-term problems related to the virus.
What will the organization of events look like after the current situation? With what new reality will we have to deal, in your opinion, in the organization of such events?
Probably masks will become a permanent element of the work of fashion designers and the advertising gadgets industry. I have already seen them in various arrangements of shapes, prints, also with a built-in zipper on the mouth. Possibly, at trade fairs, the stands will be equipped with some additional protection elements, but still the start of mass events will only be possible once there is no possibility of contracting the virus.
We are all aware that this is a very serious challenge to the economy. Do you have any predictions as to what changes – in the way companies operate, in the availability of products, execution of orders – will occur in the advertising gadgets sector when this whole situation is over?
In general, we can anticipate an increase in online sales, in particular in the retail sector. Certainly, a large number of companies already have or are about to start selling their products online and are opening up for sales to end customers. Perhaps there will be more online communication, video calls, and personal meetings at least for a while will become something exclusive. Let’s hope that it will be as short as possible, especially because of our mutual professional relations and family ties.
What are the current discussions with the industry representatives about? Do they include the organization of next year’s edition of RemaDays Warsaw?
Currently, we are mainly discussing with customers about their situation, what sales support measures are most necessary and how they see their participation in next year’s edition. The outcome of these conversations is very promising, hoping of course that the trade fair will be technically feasible.
Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to all the companies in the industry?
I wish everyone a lot of new, good ideas and strength to implement them and to come out from the whole situation stronger internally and professionally – believing that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Thank you for the conversation.
The interview was conducted by Joanna Kłosowska, the editor-in-chief of Gifts Journal Polska.