With over 12,000 committed employees, 530 stores and nine regional offices, HOFER creates new success stories in Austria every day. Erika Wagner has been a part of this success for almost 40 years. She joined the HOFER family in 1981 and will celebrate her 40-year work anniversary with HOFER this July. In this heart-felt interview, she shares what has changed in the company over the years and how she originally decided to join HOFER.
- Name: Erika Wagner
- Age: 59 years
- Marital status: Erika is married and has a 23-year-old daughter
- Position: Store Manager in Zwettl (Lower Austria)
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Erika: I love my garden – pottering around the backyard is one of my favourite activities. I also love to read and am a passionate crossword puzzler.
If you had the chance to take a year off, what would you definitely do?
Erika: I would take a trip to Africa! I have been to Africa three times. The continent holds so much fascination for me. The vegetation and people are unique.
Are you working your dream job?
Erika: I had dreamed of become a car mechanic. My father is a true “tinkerer” and as a child I loved to repair things with him in his workshop. Back then, it was difficult to find an apprenticeship in that profession as a woman, so I opted to apprentice as a hair dresser and ultimately found my way to HOFER. I am very happy in my job and can’t imagine working anywhere else.
What do you remember about starting out at HOFER?
Erika: My interview was held directly in the store and I remember holding my application materials as I waited together with about twenty other applicants. I was not confident at first because I was sure the other applicants were more experienced. But they must have liked me and I started working a week later. I was warmly welcomed into my team and was soon assigned to my favourite activity of working the till because I was quick and accurate.
Which professional experience stands out from the past 40 years?
Erika: Oh, there were many pleasant events! Getting a paper press in the store was a highlight. The sales staff had been flattening the paper in wooden boxes with their feet. Scanner tills were a significant relief. Before that, our team had to memorise every single product price in the store. I also vividly remember the day our store got a BACKBOX in-store bakery.
How would you describe HOFER 40 years ago and HOFER now?
Erika: 40 years ago, it was much “easier” to be a discount chain because HOFER was the only one. Today we are one of several discount store chains, but I believe we offer the highest quality. That is the great achievement of all HOFER employees in all areas, of which we can be very proud.
Were there any challenges during your time at HOFER?
Erika: Definitely, there were challenges, for example coming back to work after my 10-month maternity leave. I was lucky to have support from my husband and HOFER to balance the demands of career and family. The situation around COVID-19 has been a huge challenge as well. I do everything I can to support and motivate my team so we can get through this difficult time together. Early in the pandemic, we were facing great uncertainty and major stress. But there were also funny experiences. I was standing in the BACKBOX in-store bakery and a customer was reaching for baked goods with his bare hands, so I said, “Please use a glove or the tongs!” He reacted with amazement: “No way, the bread can speak?” That made me laugh.
What is your experience with team spirit at HOFER? Has it changed over the years?
The team spirit in my store is very strong. We always support one another. The sense of collegiality between Area Managers and store teams has changed for the better over the years. Area Managers nowadays have greater interaction with the sales staff, which in part is due to our corporate culture of collaborating on a first-name basis. Our shared team event is a special highlight every year. In 2019, we arranged a trip to Vienna with a tour of the aquarium and a visit to the fairgrounds with a relaxed dinner at Schweizerhaus.
What is your favourite activity as a Store Manager?
I don't really have a favourite activity; I enjoy everything about my work. But if I had to choose, I would say I love setting up displays for sales campaigns.
Can you share what your favourite HOFER product is?
Yes, I love the freshly squeezed blood orange juice, which I mix with green tea. It now replaces my coffee for breakfast.