REWE Group
Annual Report 2020

Our
Corona
Year

Coronavirus pandemic
Hoarding, rescuing stranded holidaymakers, working remotely: The Year of Corona created a world of new challenges for the employees and retailers of the REWE Group. Read about their experiences in 2020.

Suddenly, everything changed

Once the pandemic began, people living in Germany and Europe had to learn to live with restrictions on their lifestyles and uncertainty. Many things changed virtually overnight – in both their private and work lives. Mobile work, remote work and video conferences became part of people’s daily lives almost instantaneously. New business models and services took hold, and the digitalisation of business processes took off. The coronavirus crisis also had a considerable impact on the REWE Group inside and outside Germany.


Like their colleagues in the tourism segment, employees in the REWE Group’s stores, warehouses and headquarters locations suddenly found themselves facing unheard-of challenges. The job of overcoming them required much strength and exceptional commitment. But many employees also experienced touching moments – times when their teams grew closer together during the pandemic or when customers sincerely and warmly thanked them for their hard work. The following collection of personal accounts written by different employees from all areas of the company will provide you with some interesting insights from our staff’s perspective. 

Reaching and exceeding our limits

“In 2020, we in Gangelt were Germany’s first known hotspot. The phone never stopped ringing during the first days of the pandemic as customers continued to order food. We reached our limits and then worked beyond them to keep our customers supplied with the things they needed. The store’s staff gave its all to keep supplies flowing. We drew encouragement from those who remained healthy, bought groceries for others and basically lived by the motto: It will all work out in the end.”

Heinz Schmitz
REWE retailer, Gangelt

A touch of
normality

“The biggest challenge we faced at the beginning of the pandemic was to let customers know that we would do everything we could to make shopping as safe as possible for them in our store. At this early stage, many were worried that they would catch Covid-19. Basically, we in the retail business were about the only ones who could help people feel a minimum amount of normality. Otherwise, they were mostly stuck at home. This realisation is why I performed my job professionally during this time.”

Simona Belli
Sales employee PENNY store Sciacca / Sicily

Run on
toilet paper

“The irrational behaviour of customers forced us to work around the clock to find toilet paper. The exorbitant increases in volume created huge challenges for our regular suppliers. We were forced to search abroad for additional supplies. Customers who missed out on a delivery had to use such alternatives as premoistened toilet paper or tissues. Even though we were able to significantly increase our supplies, shelves were occasionally empty once again shortly after we opened the stores.”

Nils Heinrichs
Head of Beverages/Organic/Nearfood and Gabi Runkel, Purchasing of Paper/Foils/Pet Food, REWE Group

Everyone stuck
together

“Many things changed suddenly when the coronavirus pandemic hit. It felt as if it all simply happened overnight. At the start, we were unsure about whether and how long retailers would be shut down. Everybody was uncertain. My store team was assigned some additional staff, and everyone pulled together. Many people volunteered their time and wanted to help. Some customers were worried about empty shelves. But this fear quickly proved to be unfounded.”

Sandra
BILLA store manager, Austria

Less assistance,
lots of esteem

“Life with corona requires you to be more careful. Observing the hygienic rules is a big, but very important challenge – for both yourself and for your customers. We can provide little assistance to customers in the store right now. The positive side of it all is the great amount of gratitude that many customers have expressed to us. The team spirit in our store is really good in spite of the challenging situation – we stick together.”

Julia
BIPA store employee, Austria

A new
compass

“When everything changes, change everything! This philosophy became my compass in 2020. I felt powerless on some days during the lockdown. As time passed, I learned to view the new rules governing our interaction not as a negative intrusion in my work process. I began to proactively make changes. In the end, the pandemic represents an opportunity for each individual and team to grow.”

Martin Dörnhöfer
Store manager toom Baumarkt DIY store, Bamberg

Double work,
almost no reward

“I have never experienced anything like it in more than 20 years in this business! We had to completely cancel many of the trips that we had worked out and booked. Double work, almost no reward. Frequently, you could not rebook the trip. Just how could you set a date when you had no idea about how long the situation would last? It was great to hear all of those customers who said they would be back to see us once we are able to travel worry-free again.”

Annette Borth
DER travel agency, Singen

The challenge of
remote work

“Moving from my company office to my home office and primarily communicating with my colleagues digitally – this was a change in lifestyle that took some getting used to. Our biggest challenge in the stores was to provide protection for our employees and customers as quickly as possible. This work involved such things as obtaining personal protective equipment and disinfecting agents as well as installing shields at tills.”

Kristine Schindler
Coordinator Sales National PENNY

Watch out:
infection threat!

“We have known many customers for years. We talk about all sorts of things when we visit them. But everything was reduced to the bare essentials last year – to reduce the risk of catching Covid-19. Many customers have only a limited amount of storage space. They are critically dependent on the ordered products. But our routes had to be continuously replanned as a result of new store hours and temporary closures.”

Thilo Schmitt (above) and Thomas Kluge
Drivers for Lekkerland at the Limburg and
Munich/Dettingen locations

Weekly shopping with
the pickup service

“Our pick-up service was used even more intensely during the pandemic. A look at customers’ shopping carts yielded some interesting results. In the beginning, customers tried to order an entire pallet of toilet paper. Most of the people who placed orders were families who were doing their weekly shopping. We also had many risk patients who wanted to reduce the number of contacts with people during the coronavirus pandemic.”

Jan Müller
REWE retailer, Bitburg

Expanding during
the pandemic

“Opening new stores during the pandemic – this was quite a challenge. Our dealings with Czech government authorities posed a particular problem because their office hours were cut back. Switching from personal conversations to video conferences was a huge change at the start. I was really pleased about our small-format pilot store in Strašice near Pilsen that opened in December 2020.”

Michael Polaschek
Head of Expansion, BILLA Czech Republic

Out of Thailand
as fast as possible

“All of our guests had to break off their holidays and quickly leave Thailand. This need posed a major challenge for our team. Every guest had his or her own view about the pandemic. Everyone had a different amount of information. The guests had various wishes and requirements. We had to address them even though more and more restrictions were being imposed in our destination region. Our “fuel” was the gratitude and admiration expressed by the guests.”

Thomas Berlin and Timo Entenmann
Go Vacation Thailand

Tears in their
eyes

“Our team spirit and the gratitude of our customers were unique. When we arrived at the store one morning, the front window was covered with signs that expressed our customers’ thanks for our work. It brought tears to our eyes. The job of communicating the hygienic rules was not always an easy one. I am talking about things like the requirement that customers had to use a shopping cart during their visit to the store. Despite it all, we were happy to be working here right now. We could never have imagined doing a job remotely from home.”

Tanja Erb, store manager (above) and
Astrid Hemberger,
employee at the PENNY store Malsch

Corona as an
occupational opportunity

“The customers were happier than ever when I delivered their orders to them. But many of them were also very careful. They wore face coverings and practised distancing. Some of them simply had the products placed in front of their doors in order to avoid contact. Corona was an occupational opportunity for me personally. I started my job as a driver just before the pandemic began. Today, I work in the office where I draw up route plans and handle driver organisation.”

Roberto Naitana
REWE delivery service driver

Lots of Work for
“Team Justice”

“The orders placed by stores during the first weeks of the pandemic reminded me of Christmas. But there were even more of them. They also came without warning and simply did not stop. I would like to tell you about a group we named “Team Justice”. This was a group of more than 10 colleagues from various areas of Sales and Logistics who trimmed all orders that exceeded the predefined level for certain products.”

Jens Fuchs
Product flow manager, REWE Logistics Region West

Rush, rush,
rush

“In the beginning, we had no idea about what awaited us. Soon, however, we were taking care of our customers who were stuck in their holiday location virtually around the clock. We contacted them as soon as we knew that a flight for stranded holidaymakers would be flying out of a destination region. We had to act quickly because more and more flights were cancelled at the last minute. There were countless e-mails and phone calls for rebooking and refunds. Everything was important and urgent.”

Nadine Walter
Manager flight department, DER Touristik