SMALL BUSINESS GROWTH   |   7 minute read

Covid-19: Looking beyond profit. How small businesses are adapting and giving back.

In the fourth installment of its kind, we continue to monitor commerce trends as they emerge and evolve as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over these past weeks, we’ve seen ebbs and flows  in many different industries as panic buying and pantry preparation swept the globe. A few weeks ago, sales in the Toys and Games industry as well as Arts & crafts went up as a result of many consumers preparing for restricted living, and we are still continuing to see strong growth in sports, fitness and outdoor equipment.

cvd19-05may-order-trendsFor small businesses even within these “thriving” industries, new regulations and changing consumer behaviour has made demand and supply unpredictable. Many small businesses have had to innovate and collaborate to keep their engines running.

F&B fights back and gives back

02may-cvd19-bydprofit-livestreamSeattle based bakery Piroshky Piroshkyy has found a way to remain connected to its customers and foster a sense of community in a time of isolation by live streaming from its kitchen.

Customers at home feel a sense of involvement and thus loyalty to the business and are more likely to support it. The small business also teamed up with popular food chain Pike Place Chowder to enable home deliveries of their products- a mutually beneficial arrangement. 

A great example of an F&B business that is giving back during this period of high sales is London based healthy meal delivery company and deli chain Detox Kitchen. After having to close its deli chains, the small business had to pivot and use the opportunity to support the local community.

By offering a subscription based fresh produce box to be delivered to customers homes, Detox Kitchen supports local farmers and part of the proceeds from the sales go to its charity partner Magic Breakfast, donating breakfast to a child who would normally go without, with every order.

Big Pharma shows big heart

The rise in medical and pharmaceutical sales is the least surprising trend in the commerce space recently. WIth global shortages in surgical masks, medical gowns and other personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as the exponential increase in demand for hospital equipment and medicine pharmaceutical and medical companies are doing better than ever. However somewhat uncharacteristically, these multinational goliaths are giving back in the fight against Covid-19. 

Amongst the many notable companies are Pfizer, AbbVie and Novartis, who are pledging millions in COVID-19 relief funds to help healthcare workers, patients and communities. AbbVie’s donation in Europe will consist of donating PPE, oxygen concentrators and ventilators in the hardest-hit European countries. Novartis has pledged $20 million in grants to support public health initiatives with an accelerated global approval process for quick disbursement of funds up to $1 million each.

Small liquor businesses clean up

02may-cvd19-bydprofit-alcoholSome small businesses have even pivoted into selling products that they were not manufacturing before, to capitalize on the increased demand in certain sectors such as Medical and Pharmaceuticals. Global demand for hand sanitizers shot through the roof as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with large players such as Procter & Gamble Co. unable to meet the demand.

In the UK alone, year-on-year hand sanitizer sales were up by 250.0% just in February 2020. This huge surge in demand signalled an unlikely opportunity for small businesses owners in the Beer, Wine and Spirits industry, who have access to  the equipment and materials to produce hand sanitizers.

One business that used this opportunity to give back was small liquor distillery Moonrise Distillery. Moonrise now produces hand sanitizers which it distributes for free to its local community members, which creates goodwill and helps keep people safe.

In the pink of...Health, Wellness and Cosmetics

02may-cvd19-bydprofit-essentialoilsAs we have noted in our previous blogs in the series, products in the Health, Wellness and Cosmetics have been performing well week on week, and so the decline in the last two weeks is likely to be short lived. The rising trend of more health conscious buying, and more holistic living looks like it is here to stay. In France alone, specialist organic food shops have reported sales increases of over 40 percent in March. 

Within the industry, certain types of products seem to be in higher demand. Food supplements that contained vitamins and minerals to help strengthen the immune system have seen a sustained rise in sales. Natural essential oils and aromatherapy products are also experiencing an increase in sales of more than 35% year-on-year.

Is Fashion poised for a return?

One industry that has been going on a roller coaster ride in terms of sales, is Fashion & Accessories. Looking at the past two weeks, orders are up on the two weeks prior. 02may-cvd19-bydprofit-fashion

What is clear is that some fashion companies are better equipped than others, largely due to their adoption of technology. Whilst eCommerce alone can’t completely offset lost sales from brick and mortar stores, it has been a lifeline and will continue to be critical as a contact-free economy could emerge - raising eCommerce and other automation to new heights.

02may-cvd19-bydprofit-graphsSource

This data also has wider implications on small businesses globally. Businesses that have invested in eCommerce channels can expect the and ROI in the coming months and perhaps even anticipate a shift in the weightage of their sales channels permanently, with eCommerce overtaking offline channels for good. 

Beyond performance by channel, F&A businesses can also be divided by products, with certain types of clothing and accessories outperforming others. Two categories of products that have not only seen an increase in sales but are also redefining fashion trends globally are loungewear and activewear as more people adjust their wardrobes for working and working out in their homes. 

For small businesses in the Fashion and Accessories industries and other industries that are facing a decline in sales and looking for new ways to drive orders here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Connect with your customers; sincerity sells. Develop a crisis marketing strategy that focuses on using digital channels and platforms to build authentic relationships with your target audience.
  • Invest in your online channels, in a BIG way. If you have not already done it, now is the time to digitally transform your small business
  • Leverage automation tools and insightful data to help manage stock. With supply chains being disrupted, simplify as many operational processes as you can and use granular reporting to make data-driven decisions. 

The future of commerce may seem uncertain and the path ahead may be paved with challenges, however the most heartening and hopeful trends that we see all showcase examples of businesses large and small, supporting each other, adapting together and giving back to their communities so that the society as a whole can adapt, recover and move forward into a new world.

Interested to see the previous post? Look no further: 
Coronavirus: Interest trends and the odd silver lining
COVID-19: Our lowdown on the latest ups and downs
COVID-19: With May almost upon us, how are things looking?

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