"Merchant goods ebb and flow," is how Andreas Wenzel comments on the turn of the year in the midst of the Corona pandemic. The co-owner of the Hamburg-based family business a. hartrodt has been in the forwarding business for 42 years, and believes it is "a completely wrong opinion that things always have to go up." Together with the second co-owner of a. hartrodt, Jan van Tienhoven, Wenzel already foresaw an economic downturn in 2020/21 at the end of 2018. "We didn't assume normal growth rates and came up with a very conservative budget for 2020," he says.
KfW loans and savings improve liquidity
Due to the downturn in the global economy at the end of 2019, January 2020 was "disastrous" for a. hartrodt, according to Wenzel. During the lockdown in China, the freight forwarder lost up to 30 percent of the volumes of the same period in the previous year, although the figures then recovered relatively quickly from the second quarter onwards. With the help of loans from the KfW promotional bank (Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau), the traditional medium-sized company managed to improve its liquidity. At the same time, in particular travel expenses were saved "in the six-figure range".
Shareholders assume social responsibility
Out of social responsibility towards the employees' families, the shareholders of a. hartrodt changed their withdrawal policy in April 2020 in order to protect the company through higher reserves. At the same time, a tax-free Corona bonus was paid to all employees in Germany for special performance during the crisis. There was also a Christmas bonus "almost at the same level as in 2019", according to Wenzel. Even though a. hartrodt was particularly hard hit by the pandemic in the Mediterranean region and in South Africa, the majority of subsidiaries achieved "quite good results" despite Corona.
Wenzel is looking at a "scary" first quarter of 2021: trade slump after Christmas, Brexit, change of government in the USA, extended Chinese New Year – all this worries the businessman. Nevertheless, a. hartrodt is well positioned and ready to continue investing in training and digitalization.