As part of a new blog and Q&A series hosted by Eco Life Scandinavia (11-12 November 2020, Malmö), Johanna Koskinen, marketing manager at Finnish organic retailer Ruohonjuuri, talks about how the business has been adapting in the COVID-19 crisis – even opening a new store.  

“In Finland we now have 16 stores and run a very successful online shop. On a very positive note, particularly in these strange times, last week (on 23 April) we opened our newest Ruohonjuuri store in Helsinki!

The Ruohonjuuri stores are doing quite well, considering (note: Finland is now gradually scaling back Coronavirus restrictions that have been in place since 16 March).  Of course, sales – especially in those stores located in shopping centres, are down but the situation is not too horrible.  Our web sales have increased however, and we have been able to move staff over from our physical stores to support the online business.  All our stores are still open in Finland and we are seeing a slow, but steady increase in sales compared to a couple of weeks ago.

Interestingly, our current bestsellers are pretty consistent with ‘normal times’, including natural cosmetics and food supplements.  Vitamins (particularly C and D) and medicinal mushrooms have seen significant increase in sales though.  Flexibility is one of our biggest strengths as a business and we are working closely with our suppliers to maintain a good relationship throughout.

Unfortunately, we did have to shut down our Happy Food Store in Stockholm, Sweden, which has been tough and very sad.  The situation was quite difficult, and we had no other choice as we needed to save our business in Finland.

‘Positive’ takeaways
One thing we are seeing more of is people being less selfish in these times. They are taking more care of each other. Communities are stronger and a willingness to help one another seems to have soared. There are so many good people on this planet!

We’ve seen this from our customers too. They are loyal and support us. They understand the importance of washing hands and social distancing.  We wanted to give something back to our community, so we have provided them with free product samples and small cards with supportive phrases to encourage people to help one another.  We have also implemented a new ‘click & collect’ service whereby a customer can call us and we will get the products ready for them to be picked up.  We really want each and every one of our customers to get that ‘happy feeling’ when shopping in our stores.

A special mention most go to our staff, who have been absolutely incredible in this crisis.  They remain agile, adaptive and are very brave. They understand that we are in difficult times but that better times are just around the corner. We remain positive and have managed to maintain a good attitude so far.

“It is important for us to keep our stores open since we have an obligation to our staff and community to keep the economy going and offer healthy products in these hard times”

It is important for us to keep our stores open since we have an obligation to our staff and community to keep the economy going and offer healthy products in these hard times. It is also important to support our suppliers, since most of them are smaller companies and we want to help them as much as we can.

Looking to the future
The future looks quite bright for Ruohonjuuri. We have quite hard times now but it has already changed and is a little bit better than a few weeks ago. Sales are slowly growing and customers are happier than they were a few weeks ago.

In this ‘corona spring’ we have evolved our business and made it more effective.  We have done many new things recently, which we will keep on doing.  We are also planning many new things to do in the future.  Of course, hard times do help to develop a business.  If the old things don’t work we must try new things to succeed.

People are more interested in their own health and I really hope that all of us will care about the environment more than before.  We sell eco-friendly and health products – which are popular now and, I think, will continue to be very popular in future too.”

• Find out more about Ruohonjuuri at www.ruohonjuuri.fi

 Eco Life Scandinavia and Nordic Organic Food Fair, take place in Malmö on 1-12 November 2020. 

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