Our friends from Brain Games operates in all three Baltics countries. So it is interesting to see a different approach by these countries to the current situation:
Brain Games handles distribution and retail in Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. Each morning all our team leaders meet for a video chat to update on the local happenings and learn from the shared experiences. Everyone who can is working from home and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Each country has different regulations in effect, but in many terms, we feel united, and our company tries to use the same practices with all our employees and partners no matter the country. Still, it’s easier to talk about each country on its own.
Lithuania had the slowest start regarding Covid-19 spread. Still, it was the first Baltic country to close all non-essential shops for over a month. It was challenging to transfer sales and customer support to online channels. A week ago, the Lithuanian government decided to reduce restrictions, and shops were allowed to re-open again. Now there is an obligation for customers to wear face masks, and there can be only one customer inside a shop at any time. The consumer traffic is obviously not the same as it was last year and the shopping habits have changed.
After Lithuania decided to close all the shops, Estonia did the same. Currently, the latest decision is that all shops will re-open next week. During this period, Estonia as well tried to transfer all sales online. Estonia has the most total cases from all three Baltic countries, so they are even more cautious. It will definitely take a while for things to get back to a more normal state, but it will not be as it was for sure.
Latvia was the only Baltic country that decided not to close shops fully. Currently, shops are not working at weekends, and there are reduced working ours for other days. Brain Games did decide on their own to close its retail shops for a while to make sure that we can provide a safe environment for our employees and customers. We re-opened our shops with rules that there can be only one customer at a time in the store, no cash payments are processed, and customers cannot touch any games. In Latvia, we have experimented the most with how we tackle this situation, e.g., now we even have our top games available in what was normally only a food delivery app. We have tried some online plays, RPG sessions, rules teachings, and created or shared various content for those who are staying at home.
Overall in distribution, we see that the biggest struggle has been for our partners who have big retail chains. They had difficulties in transferring everything to the online environment, and it has been impossible to keep the same consumer traffic. Small stores, however, are doing okay. Interest for the games, jigsaw puzzles, and activities to perform home with your family have increased in this period. In all countries, kids are learning from home, and their teachers are encouraging parents to spend more time with their kids playing games, so they are not outside with friends. We see that everyone is missing gatherings with friends and other public events. Most likely public events will not be back this summer, but small gatherings will happen, and games will be one of the best ways to spend time in a narrow circle.
Facing summer with social distancing will be a challenge. Still, we feel like Baltics have been doing well so far. The increase of total case count in our region is slowing at the moment with only ~21 new cases each day based on the last 7 day average for all 3 countries combined. It is impossible to say if, by people starting to get less cautious, this will not cause a big spike. Still, we can only hope that the general public will continue to practice all government requirements to keep this number as low as possible.