Covid-19, resilient business model and digitalisation
The global COVID-19 pandemic defines 2020 – and directly impacts all Valora markets. The fall in customer frequency caused by the government orders obliges Valora to reduce opening times at many sales outlets and even to temporarily close some entirely. Nevertheless, the foodvenience provider manages to help provide the public with basic supplies under the most stringent restrictions.
Customer footfall is particularly affected at the usually busy public transport hubs. Demand for snacks when on the move falls at the same time. On the other hand, Valora’s high level of competence in the tobacco and press categories emerges as a strength in the crisis. Valora’s balanced business model proves resilient and strict cost management helps the company post a positive result for the entire year despite the crisis.
In 2020, Valora prioritises new projects while also investing more in the conversion and upgrade of the sales outlets won in the prior year's SBB tender and in its digitalisation initiatives. Valora is ideally positioned on the digital front as the crisis accelerates the advance of digitalisation into all areas of life. Notably, Valora opens the cashier-free, open 24/7 avec box in Wetzikon (Canton of Zurich). The operation of the avec box at ETH Zurich Hönggerberg, opened in the prior year, is being extended several times in response to high customer demand.
A mobile self-checkout solution test via avec app is ongoing at the two avec stores in Zurich Oerlikon since December 2020 in addition to the normal checkout service. Valora is also working on the launch of avec 24/7 with a hybrid model. It opens in January 2021. During the week, the avec store is a regular shop with staff, on Sunday – and soon during the night – it turns into an autonomous operation. Finally, the own online store www.avecnow.ch begins operations. It delivers smaller convenience purchases to the home within a good hour.
Another core competence of Valora, food, is positioned to exploit the trend of customers’ higher nutritional awareness. Various innovations are being introduced. At Brezelkönig, Valora is launching products with plant-based meat substitute, while the fresh vegan and vegetarian selection is being expanded at avec and k kiosk. In addition, BackWerk even develops its entire range of filled products.
At Ditsch USA, the last pretzel production line becomes operational in the first quarter of 2020. Valora now has a total of 16 production lines in Germany, Switzerland and the US.