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The rapid spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 has sparked alarm worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared this rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, and many countries are grappling with a rise in confirmed cases. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising people to be prepared for disruptions to daily life that will be necessary if the coronavirus spreads within communities.
What is coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan City, China in December 2019.
It’s understood to be spread when there is close contact with an infected person – either via droplets produced by coughs and sneezes or touching surfaces where those droplets may have landed.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent against the new coronavirus, so health officials say the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus and by regularly washing your hands and a proper hygiene.
Will people stop buying online?
One of the biggest concerns store owners may have is that consumers will stop making online purchases over fears that they might get the virus from overseas shipments.
But actually, what we’re seeing so far is quite the opposite.
Many consumers are reportedly ‘stock-piling’ goods amid concerns there could be shortages or that they may have to stay indoors more.
We’re not just talking about the supermarkets seeing sales boosts – many don’t want to go out into a physical shopping environment in a bid to reduce their risk of catching the infection, so online orders and sales are increasing too.
British online grocer Ocado warned it had seen ‘exceptionally high demand’ and urged its customers to place orders early. In a recent email to customers, the company said: “More people than usual seem to be placing particularly large orders. As a result, delivery slots are selling out quicker than expected.”
Which industries are affected?
With the outbreak still in its early stages, sales of groceries, household goods and healthcare items have seen a boost as consumers look for ways to protect themselves. But analysis shows that it has had an impact on other sectors.
Insights platform Contentsquare found that spending on travel planning websites have been down 20% and sales of sports equipment were down by almost a third in the two weeks from the end of February to the start of March.
“In contrast, there has been an increase in spending on home furnishings, and even lingerie, as consumers switch their leisure time to more indoor pursuits.”
Luxury brands may also see a decline as people look to make sure they are well-stocked at home rather than spending on fashion items, experts have suggested.
The World Economic Forum reported: “The mobility and work disruptions have led to marked declines in Chinese consumption, squeezing multinational companies in several sectors including aviation, education abroad, infrastructure, tourism, entertainment, hospitality, electronics, consumer and luxury goods.”
Is it safe to order products from abroad?
As COVID-19 is a new illness, scientists are still working to understand it. But this may be a question that has crossed yours or your buyers minds.
Based on what they know so far, there doesn’t seem to be any proof the virus can spread from items shipped from China – or any other infected country, including Italy and Japan.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus has been transmitted through imported goods and packages.
Experts believe the illness is spread via droplets spread from coughs and sneezes, which generally struggle to survive on surfaces for longer than 48 hours.
The risk of coronavirus spreading from products or packaging that has been shipped over days or weeks is very low, so merchants don’t really need to worry.
Rapidly changing situation
The coronavirus outbreak is changing every day – with more countries, people and economies affected by its spread.
As a store owner, you may want to consider developing a contingency plan or exploring some alternative suppliers, especially if you rely on getting your stock from other countries.
This is the one of the most important tips for adapting to change, because it places you ahead of the curve: anticipating change and implementing it before many people think to adapt. It is important to keep your learning skills fresh; learning how to learn is also too valuable a lesson to allow it to atrophy over time. The bottom line is, the more you know how to do and the more current your skills and your ability to apply them effectively, the more valuable you are adding for your business.