German retailers About You and Vinted share how they navigated changing shopping trends to succeed during the pandemic

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tarek muller About You CEO Tarek Müller at a mask donation event for a school in Hamburg, Germany.

  • Tarek Müller, CEO of the German fashion retailer About You, said his company has found success during the pandemic by doubling down on e-commerce and capitalizing on shifts in consumer demand. 
  • “We saw not just that the market was fluctuating a lot, but that there was a massive shift in what people are actually demanding, which channels they used, and where were they spending their time,” he said while speaking on a panel at Business Insider’s Global Trends Festival on Monday.
  • Fellow German retail executives like Vinted CEO Thomas Plantenga and Alexa von Bismarck, German country manager of the online payment service Ayden, also shared how their companies are adapting to changing consumer shopping patterns. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The global pandemic has upended the way consumers shop, but that’s not stopping retailers from finding innovative ways to adapt and turn a profit this year.

During a panel discussion at Business Insider’s Global Trends Festival on Monday, Tarek Müller — CEO of the German fashion retailer About You — said that though the fashion market has “massively decreased” since the beginning of the pandemic, his company is finding success by doubling down on e-commerce and capitalizing on shifts in consumer demand. 

“There is small growth in the online fashion sector, which is good news obviously because offline has massively suffered,” he said.  “But what has changed even more was the demand. Demand in certain categories like evening dresses has obviously massively dropped, but [categories like] sports, kids, and leisurewear have massively increased.” 

He continued: “We saw not just that the market was fluctuating a lot, but that there was a massive shift in what people are actually demanding, which channels they used, and where were they spending their time.”

As a result, Müller said About You had to sharpen up in areas like fulfillment and inventory tracking to ensure its online business was running smoothly.

“For us that meant we had to adapt our replenishment on the website, the sorting of the categories, pricing, and our marketing activities within days,” he said. “Luckily, at About You, most of the stuff is automatized and technology-driven and so that could happen quite fast because it was basically done by algorithms and machines.”

Alexa von Bismarck, German country manager of the online payment service Ayden, said her company quickly saw shifts in payment trends away from popular areas like travel, and instead to online retailers, streaming, communications, gaming, and gambling sites. 

“Those sort of merchants obviously all benefited from more people being at home,” she said.

Meanwhile, Thomas Plantenga, CEO of German fashion resale site Vinted, said the pandemic prompted high volumes of shipments from consumers with extra time on their hands to clean out their closets.

However, due to early supply chain disruption and health concerns, Planetenga said the company made the “controversial decision to stop activities” determining it “was ethically not correct to stay open.” Though the move posed a risk to the business, he found it ultimately served in his favor. 

“We closed our business and stopped shipping,” he said. “This cost an enormous amount of revenue, so during that period we said ‘let’s only hire now in the necessary gaps and as soon as we see if [business] bounces back we’ll continue our aggressive growth strategy.’ After roughly a month, everything was in the green and we started to invest again.” 

Bastion Balance Seoul, Korea.