On October 15, our customer UNITO launched its e-commerce podcast UNgeniert with an exciting and very informative episode on the topic of “Corona – A Blessing for Online Commerce? Of course, we listened to it right away and learned a lot about this extraordinary year at UNITO. We are particularly pleased that we were able to ask host Georg Glinz, Head of Corporate Communications at UNITO, a few more questions about the podcast, developments at UNITO and e-commerce – and share his answers with you here:
Last month you launched a podcast. What will you tell us about in it?
With our podcast, we want to cover the broad world of e-commerce in as wide a range of topics as possible – and also with a colorful variety of interviewees.
I will remain the same as the host, but my interview partners will change. The first two episodes, in which UNITO Managing Director Harald Gutschi is a guest, are therefore more or less an exception. But the podcast does have one rule: questions and answers should always be asked and answered as openly as possible. We are determined to live up to the name of the podcast in every episode.
The first episode is called “Corona – A boon for online retail?” and in it you conduct an interview with Harald Gutschi. Why did you choose this as the first topic?
We chose this topic for our kick-off episode for two reasons: Firstly, because it is the topic that has moved so much in online commerce this year, and secondly, because it is also the topic that has moved society the most in this year that has been so challenging for all of us. And with our podcast, we want to encourage people to get involved with e-commerce at all or even more, and to take an interest in it – regardless of whether they are people from the industry, journalists or people who perhaps haven’t had much to do with online retail until now.
We don’t want to spoil too much here, but the first 2 weeks, sales at UNITO fell extremely, putting everyone in a state of concern. How big was the decline?
In retrospect, we can say that the first two lockdown weeks were of course an extremely difficult time for us at UNITO and all our brands: At the beginning of the lockdown, we had to contend with sales slumps of up to 50 percent. At the time, no one could have imagined how positively the rest of the fiscal year would develop – for online retail in general and for us at UNITO in particular. The digitization push and the changed buying behavior of consumers are giving a massive boost to UNITO’s sales development. In the first half of our 2020/21 fiscal year, i.e., in the period from March 1 to August 31, 2020, we realized total sales of 201.5 million euros (IFRS 15) with our brands (including OTTO, UNIVERSAL, QUELLE, Lascana), which is an increase of 12.8 percent compared to the same period of the previous year on a like-for-like basis.
In the direct goods business with the customer (customer sales), the UNITO Group is growing even more significantly: With an increase in sales of 18 percent, the UNITO brands are growing more than twice as fast as the market and are gaining market share (market growth of 7 percent according to the “E-Commerce Study Austria 2020”, KMU Forschung Austria, July 2020). We are also particularly pleased with the significant growth in the number of new customers: In the first half of the fiscal year, we acquired almost 400,000 new customers, an increase of more than 20 percent year-on-year. Many people are buying online for the first time during or after the lockdown. The forced shift of life to the digital world also makes them less reluctant to buy online.
Your product range is very broad. Which division in particular rose after the downturn?
A nice home is more important than ever since the start of the Corona pandemic. Large sections of the population cannot and do not want to spend their money on cars or vacations at the moment, but rather put it into their homes. That is why the Living segment (furniture, housewares, home textiles) has developed particularly well for all UNITO brands. In response to this “stay-at-home” trend, we are constantly expanding our product range in this area: currently, for example, with sustainable brands and collaborations with designers such as Lena Gercke and Guido Maria Kretschmer.
Harald Gutschi gives us lots of figures on developments at UNITO. Is there one that particularly surprised you?
Yes, the extreme increases in all articles associated with the current “stay at home” trend: In the Living segment, we had a year-on-year increase in sales of 41 percent in the first half of the 2020/21 financial year. In the DIY store segment, we are growing even more significantly at 54 percent. These are quite astonishing figures.
That’s right! What topics can we look forward to now?
The second episode is on the topic, “Is Stationary Retailing Dead?” You can listen to it on all the popular platforms like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Deezer and Google Podcasts. The third episode was just released, on November 25. I don’t really want to reveal too much about it yet. But I can still give away two details already: This time, the content will be less number-heavy, much more human, and I will no longer be interviewing Harald Gutschi, but a female interviewee.
Dear Georg, thank you very much for your time and your detailed answers. We are already very excited about what we will learn in the next episodes and wish you much success!