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In 2020, the COVID pandemic meant fewer customer visits and lower sales in physical department stores, but also e-commerce that grew by 50 percent and reached over SEK 750 million. A new CEO, -Annica- Hagen, took over and began the work on Åhléns’ strategy for the future.
Sales began strongly at year’s start in department stores, e-commerce and subsidiaries, but were strongly affected by the COVID outbreak, especially the City department stores. At the same time, customers’ demand for digital commerce increased and Åhléns was quick to adapt its operations. The parts of Åhléns that primarily showed growth in 2020 were e-commerce, Åhléns Outlet, which had seven stores at the end of the year, and Designtorget, which opened 12 shop-in-shop stores in Åhléns department stores. Department store sales decreased due to the pandemic, with the deepest dips during March-May and November-December, due as well to two closures, but increased online through a wider range and new customized functionality and communication. Åhléns reported negative results of SEK -331 million in 2020 with continued pressure on profitability, and during the year there was great focus on adapting the cost base to new conditions, as well as automating and streamlining processes.
“The transition to more digitalized commerce continues at a fast pace.”
Digitalization to meet customer needs
The transition to more digitalized commerce continues at a fast pace. The åhlens.se offer has expanded with over 300 brands. Åhléns was the first retail player to launch digital receipts in collaboration with Kivra, and initiatives are underway to increase personalization and customer insights. A new business system was implemented and development of logistics and distribution continues to push the transition forward. Roll-out of the marketplace with external players in the department stores is underway with new local collaborations and at Åhléns City Stockholm, as well as the newly opened men’s floor with the latest department store concept.
New CEO and investments for the future
A robotized warehouse being built in Rosersberg will give customers even faster and smoother delivery options. To meet the growing low-price trend, additional Åhléns Outlet stores are being opened. Åhléns’ new CEO Annica Hagen presents a new strategy in 2021, focusing on customer needs, brand position and digitalization, with the goal of turning to profitability.