Retail is floundering in the U.S. By the end of March, 20% of middle-class workers had already been temporarily furloughed or suspended; over 700,000 positions had vanished; and 10 million workers had filed for unemployment benefits (in just those last two weeks). (At that point, major retailers like Macy’s, Kohls, and The Gap had furloughed the majority of their workers.) Also by the end of March, for 16% of the nation’s employees, the place of work had completely shut down. Those numbers will only increase over the course of April.
During the peak periods (successive “waves”) of a pandemic, companies could experience absentee rates between 15% and 30% due to sickness, quarantines, travel restrictions, family care responsibilities, and general fear of contagion.
The pressing question is: What businesses can survive such a long hiatus in their operations? And what can be done for them to stay above water? Some companies are pitching in to help the overloaded healthcare system.
In Torrance, California, Simplehuman reports it is seeing a surge in demand for its touch-free products (spec. trash cans, sanitizer, and soap dispensers) as more and more consumers are taking precautions to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The company is even donating products to those in need across the country.
Chapotle is offering 100,000 free burritos to medical staff.
Netflix has promised $100 million to workers displaced by the freeze that has halted work on movies and television series throughout the world. Facebook and Google have pledged to donate ad space to businesses that use their platforms.
And eBay has pledged $100 million to its new “Up & Running” initiative–designed to help struggling small businesses needing to sell on its site.
When supply-chains fragment and services fail, there needs to be a shift in the nature of continuity-planning to ensure the ability to maintain business during a sustained crisis. The economy is in an induced coma; but even a comatose patient requires nutrients to survive.