Business Monitor

The wider impact of COVID-19 M

In this article, marketing expert Paul Clapham takes a look at the wider impact that coronavirus is having on business sectors around the globe.

sure enough it’s pretty terrible. Certainly, stock markets have fallen sharply but that is entirely normal when something unexpected like COVID-19 hits the fan. The markets hate uncertainty worse than anything and they are getting a bellyful. But it’s not all negative for business. People are paying funny money for hand sanitisers. Soap is selling well, no surprise, since people have definitely upped their hand washing routine. Try buying a face mask. Lots of people have signed up to online language courses. Other online education is having lots of success.

In China, where citizens have been in lockdown for months already, the uplift that quarantine is having on entertain-yourself-at-home services is already obvious. TikTok usage has skyrocketed; online games keep crashing because of too-high demand; and Alibaba has built a system so people can buy groceries via livestream.


Streaming services are booming as people choose to self-isolate or if you prefer implement social distancing. I personally struggle with this. It will surely be a negative of coronavirus. There is already too much not talking face to face. Six or 12 months when it is medically advised could turn the world into a Trappist monastery. However, my hopes and preferences won’t change the market or medical dynamics. You might want to go for a haircut. The latest move by the Spanish government is to close pelluquerias (hairdressers). Getting your barnet done regularly is a big thing for men and women alike in Spain and I can see people being more annoyed by this than bars being closed. You can’t get a haircut delivered either. Supermarkets all over Europe are seeing home delivery demand rise fast. City analysts are recommending that we pile into Netflix and Facebook. Video conferencing is doing very nicely: shares in Zoom doubled in the first quarter.


Which brings us to home-working. Plenty of people have had the opportunity to try it and not done so. There are good reasons for this. Firstly, we are a gregarious species and home-working is

normally a solitary activity. We are also creatures of habit and getting out of the habit of the daily commute is hard for some people. Second, we fear that being out of sight will make us out of mind and that we will be out of the corporate loop. Third, an enthusiastic four-year-old who wants you to sing ‘The wheels on the bus’ yet again is not conducive to a fully productive day.

I suspect the virus is going to present an opportunity for a long-term trial, followed by a big change in working practices. The technology is in place already and the cost of added needs is falling. If a highly valued employee needs convincing, i.e. an incentive, would you contribute to him/ her putting a home office on top of their flat-roofed garage? (at a basic level this is inexpensive). My reaction would be that I’d listen if they asked but I probably wouldn’t offer. It’s a hell of an incentive though.

Human interest To add to this catalogue of virtue I was hoping for, and not finding, some story of genuine human interest. Then came a shaft of light from the web. ‘Does alcohol kill coronavirus?’ asked the headline. Let me tell you, I was in there faster than the speeding bullet. I struggle to fully explain my

disappointment; this was about alcohol- based hand washes. The answer to the question was no – serves it right for being a hand wash.

If you are like me you get lots of emails offering chances to work remotely. Apart from not getting paid, I can’t see a scam in them. These operations should be

bringing in new people hand over fist. My early impression is: don’t go there – an email with literals and dodgy grammar does not impress me. Still, there’s plenty of chance for someone to get this right.


Charities are definitely winners and the numbers suggest that this will be sustainable long after COVID-19. 1,800 COVID-19 Mutual Aid groups have sprung up across the country. 1,400 people called Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel after he asked for volunteers. The British Red Cross signed up 17,000 volunteers in 10 days, compared to 981 in the first 10 weeks of the year. The Trussell Trust runs 420 food banks around Britain and says it has ‘been overwhelmed by the kindness of people volunteering as community reserve volunteers’. Despite the above commitment charities are saying that there’s a black hole appearing in their finances – the usual fund raising from marathons to can rattling just isn’t possible.

Keep an eye on existing medicines which are being trialled as cures for COVID-19. If one of them proves a winner you can guess the effect on the share price and the general impact on the world. Try creating your own slogans: the return of ‘Keep Calm and Carry on’ looks imminent. ‘You can’t read this shirt because I’m staying at home’; ‘we can’t shake hands but my shirt says a big HI’ etc etc.

The message remains though, stay safe and stay home.

May 2020 |23 |

ost of the world sees coronavirus as an unmitigated disaster, and

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