The COVID-19 epidemic sweeping the world made 2020 a year full of challenges where many countries have implemented immigration and social restrictions and reduced social gatherings greatly. It was March to April, the most severe period of the epidemic, that my friend from Denmark dauntlessly flew back from Denmark to China to continue his work while everyone was rather (or be forced) to stay at home. He is NIKOLAJ SCHNOOR, the president of LINDBERG Asia Pacific.
Q: We know that you have undergone a mandatory 14-day-quarantine in Shanghai. Could you please tell us about the experience and feelings during that time?
I took a flight from Taipei to Shanghai on March 16th. And I was originally arranged for a home-quarantine. However, 3 days later, I was informed that a passenger on my flight who was sitting quite close to me was diagnosed with Covid-19, and I was thus taken to hotel for a centralized isolation and health examination. As I have been quarantined at home for 3 days, I had to stay at the hotel for 11 more days, for the total 14-day-quarantine. To be honest, I did not feel any fear at that time, because I have no related symptoms of the infection at all. And as far as I can see, all the arrangements were very good. With the basic needs of life were met, the 11 days were not tough. I can order food in the hotel room, and I also have my own coffee machine (Editor’s note: as we can see, the coffee machine is a sweet point here). Moreover, the days were very fulfilling because I can work and hold meetings as usual with Wi-Fi. In fact, there were seven other colleagues from LINDBERG who had returned to Shanghai from overseas, and they all had to be quarantined like me.
Q: When did LINDBERG’s Shanghai office officially resume work?
We resumed work in early March. And everyone wears masks in the office in accordance with government regulations. Also, the company provides masks for each of the employees, and every colleague was required to take a temperature measurement before entering the company. We keeps an eye on the colleagues with fever and cough symptoms. We have colleagues in charge of sales in all parts of China, they would meet with the business partners in person to give them plenty of time to select goods.
Q: After the outbreak of the epidemic, many different prevention measures have been invented, which are changing our daily life and work patterns. And how do these measures affect your work style?
My job is to fly around constantly, but as some countries are restricting entry, even if I successfully enter the other country, I must be quarantined for 14 days when I return to China. And this is too time-consuming. Thus, I have not left China for months. The alternative is to use Zoom, Webex, Webinar for meetings with my business partners when it is almost impossible to fly to meet them in person. Also, we have established an online lecture mode to connect the Danish teams and Shanghai teams, to remotely share the information and stories of the brand, and the sales method etc. The epidemic has prompted us to develop new ways of communication and work, where however have shortened the distance between the colleagues and improve the meeting efficiency. In the past, everyone would drink coffee first and chat before kicking off with the main topic. But now it is totally different, where the topic of the online meeting starts immediately, with everyone focusing on the content of the meeting, more efficiently.
Q: What is the current sales situation of LINDBERG in China and other countries?
I returned to China from Europe in mid-March when the epidemic in China had become under controlled. China’s economy has recovered at an astonishing speed since March, with the rebounding of the business of LINDBERG. And the currently sales figures have almost returned to the level of the previous year. China’s Taiwan is doing well and Hong Kong is recovering as well, while the Southeast Asia, with very strict prevention measures which closed the custom and restricted shopping, should take a longer time to recover. But overall, not only the Asian market, but also the entire global market is slowly returning to normal. Moreover, LINDBERG also launched new products as scheduled in the second half of the year, which should have been released in the Beijing, Paris, and Las Vegas exhibitions where they had to be cancelled. However, we are very confident to overcome the problem, and continue to strive to provide over business partners and customers with the best products, support, and services via multiple channels.
Q: What is your opinion on how COVID-19 impacts on the China and the entire Asian economy?
With the epidemic being under control gradually, economic activities have begun to return to normal, where retaliatory consumption has appeared in Chinese market, especially the high-end product. In fact, it is the same for the situation in Europe. Everyone cannot travel abroad and is forced to stay at home to avoid the epidemic. Therefore, people saved a lot of money by which they purchased new luxury goods. The sales of high-end products thus increased.
China is regarded as the market with the fastest recovery and the strongest rebound during the epidemic. And South Korea and Japan are also recovering actively. As we mentioned before, the Southeast Asia may need more time to recover. And I would say the whole world is still exploring the direction in the post-epidemic era where everyone should pay more attention and respond flexibly. In the past many governments provided companies with many financial subsidies to help companies pay their employees’ salaries, rents, etc., but now the subsidy period is over, the real difficulty has come, testing the company’s ability to survive the market.
Q: Before the interview is over, is there anything else you want to share with us.
The last thing I want to say is that the epidemic has brought a halt to the overall economic activities, however for companies, this forces us to “go faster” and “think further”. For example, some project decisions may be made within 3 to 5 years, but suddenly, we must manage to think about and implement them in a year. Therefore, I think many companies are under the unprecedented enormous pressure. But if you have to take the good out of bad situation, this is sometimes what happens, to cut things that shouldn’t be here and let other things be stronger. In any case, I have great confidence in the business development in the Greater China region, and I also believe that next year will be better!