How Denmark In New York is Working for Danish Companies in the Wake of COVID-19
Although the COVID-19 crisis has put much of the world’s businesses on hold, Denmark In New York’s trade team has been hard at work mapping out the fast-changing business landscape for Danish companies in the United States. What are the impacts of the coronavirus lockdown on trade? What will an economic recovery look like? And what sectors are best positioned to bounce back? These questions and more have occupied the gravitational center of the trade team’s daily discussions as they have woven together new strategies for supporting Denmark’s leading companies in design, sustainability, and multichannel commerce.
Denmark in New York caught up with Martine Gram Barbry, Head of Trade at The Consulate General of Denmark in New York, to get a better picture of the pandemic’s impact on the US market and understand how Denmark’s Trade Council is helping Danish companies best prepare for what’s next.
Denmark in New York: What do Danish companies need to know now that the US is in lockdown?
Martine Gram Barbry: Most Americans have been working from home during this fraught time and, while we continue to help Danish companies with their US activities as best as we can, now is obviously not the time when big decisions can be made. That said, Denmark In New York’s trade team continue to assist Danish companies in various ways and help them keep “the kettle boiling,” so to speak.
We are following the market very closely and adjusting our services to the new reality. We are assisting our customers in getting acquainted with and taking advantage of whatever new possibilities that might arise.
We have also seen increasing activity in the e-commerce industry. With most Americans staying at home, there is an even larger demand for e-commerce services. We are therefore increasing our efforts in this area, bringing new Danish products into the e-commerce market.
What can companies expect of the situation going forward?
Martine Gram Barbry: There is still a lot of uncertainty. Global markets are still being affected by the pandemic and lockdown so it is still hard to say. But we expect some form of economic recession. This will, however, affect different industries in different ways, as some are being hit harder than others. Nevertheless, we are here and ready to serve Danish companies and be their boots on the ground in the US, which will be especially helpful now that traveling has become more difficult.
At the same time, economic turmoil can also lead to new opportunities for Danish companies. During the pandemic, e-commerce has become the preferred channel for entirely new demographics of consumers. These behaviors are expected to continue well into the post-COVID-19 period and will inevitably give rise to new business opportunities.
What has been the biggest challenge in working for Denmark amid COVID-19 and how has your team handled this challenge?
Martine Gram Barbry: The biggest challenge has been that all the exciting projects we were working on had to be put on hold. But it has also given us the opportunity to develop new concepts that we are eager to roll out. Many of our services are tied to physical events like conferences, trade shows and show-cases, so we have had to reinvent our approach in order to achieve the same results for Danish companies by different means. We have already started producing virtual knowledge-sharing events and will soon begin launching long-term initiatives that combine both online and offline elements to compliment the objectives of the Danish companies we work with.
Meanwhile, from a personal perspective, we have made the most of our remote working situation, ensuring employee well-being, checking-in on our fellow colleagues almost every day, and moving some of our social activities into the digital space with a digital “coffee machine.” Instead of brainstorming ideas in person by the water cooler, we now meet in a digital meeting room on Skype where we can brainstorm our new digital strategies. And, fun fact, Skype was a Danish invention!
How is the Consulate General of Denmark in New York helping Danish companies adjust to the new reality and changing demands on the market?
Martine Gram Barbry: The global economy is looking for solutions to kick-start the economy which means that our Trade team will need to have all hands on deck as we identify solutions for boosting the Danish economy and supporting Danish companies’ global needs.
We are therefore following the market very closely and adjusting our services to the new reality. We are assisting our customers in getting acquainted with and taking advantage of whatever new possibilities that might arise. Many companies will work more digitally in the future and we are looking into how we can cater for these new ways of doing business to the benefit of our customers. E-commerce is a good example of this.
We are also working hard to achieve the goals of the companies that we were already working with. We have, over the last five years, done a lot of work around sustainability and the SDGs. The challenges tied to climate and sustainability have only been worsened and deepened by the pandemic and therefore still need to be tackled. In addition to this, Denmark has a lot of expertise with green solutions and we know that investing in green technology can be a successful strategy for kick-starting the economy in a better way.
Some companies have also been able to identify new opportunities in the wake of the crisis
Finally, we must acknowledge that we will not eradicate COVID-19 in the near future. The virus will continue challenging communities around the globe. Denmark is among the largest suppliers of products and services to the UN, and it is therefore a strategic priority to help Danish companies support the needs of the UN procurement system during this crisis.
What are the concerns of the Danish companies that you have been met with the most during this crisis?
Martine Gram Barbry: The current uncertainty makes long-term planning hard and strategic decisions very difficult to make. Many companies have experienced challenges within their supply chains and with key business partners due to the virus. Others have had to change their expectations, setting their preparations for getting a foot into the American market on hold. However, with our help, some companies have also been able to identify new opportunities in the wake of the crisis.
We also work closely with companies on the SDG agenda and had many interesting activities planned for 2020, such as the anniversary of the UN Global Compact, the decade of action with 10 years left for achieving the SDGs and the UN’s own 75th anniversary celebration. Many of these conferences have been moved into online formats, meaning that we have had to cancel events and assess how activities can be postponed or changed into a digital format.
How do companies best prepare themselves for the future after the lockdown?
Martine Gram Barbry: Things will not get back to normal from one day to the other and many things will change. Those that can be flexible to the new environment while taking the long-term perspective will win. Therefore, be agile, digitalize, rethink your business model and while doing so, consider green and sustainable solutions.
Emilie Haaber Lynggaard is the Strategic Communications and Press Intern at Denmark in New York.