Despite the difficulties many sectors suffered due to the pandemic, a few industries have fared well.
The case of Zoom is a well-known one, with adoption rates surpassing previous industry frontrunners like Cisco and GoToWebinar. A similar case can be made for software and cloud computing, both successful counterparts to employees switching to remote work, perhaps permanently.
People quarantining at home has also benefited online retailing, with an influx of new types of customers, such as retirees, who would have normally preferred to shop in person. By the end of June, Amazon’s stock price was $1,000 higher than just a few months before.
Although some tendencies were slowly growing before the pandemic, others have taken the world by surprise. Hand sanitizer products and stations, for example, are now present in practically all supermarket chains, pharmacies, grocery stores, and shops.
The pandemic has created new opportunities for pharmaceuticals, healthcare, ecommerce, home entertainment, and social media platforms, among others.
Clorox and Reckitt Benckiser, makers of the world’s top cleaning products, reported record sales. Their products include wipes, disinfectants, cleaners, and even cat litter. Clorox’s stock price jumped 40% above its previous all-time highs.
Pharmaceutical companies benefited too. Johnson & Johnson, Roche Holdings AG, Gilead Science, Inc. have all responded to increased demands for testing, vaccine developments, and testing kits. Alpha Pro Tech Ltd. and Lakeland Industries Inc. increased their stock values thanks to face masks and protective gear sales.
Like Publix and Kroger, some of the country’s largest grocers also saw sales jump thanks to their provision of household necessities and food. Kroger’s digital sales grew by 92% in the fiscal first quarter of 2020, with the company expecting ecommerce to remain at a higher level than it was before COVID-19.
Finally, popular gaming companies such as Activision Blizzard, Nintendo, and Electronic Arts have experienced a never-seen-before boom. EA’s revenue grew 12% compared with last year, while Nintendo recently announced that its annual profit surged 41%, the highest in nine years. Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” launched during the pandemic, sold over 13 million units in its first six weeks.
How Different Countries Provided Support
Certain industries have done better than others. In several cases, businesses that received government support in the form of loans and investments have been able to fare the crisis better.
Israel took several measures to support the social safety net, providing loans and guarantees for small, medium, and large enterprises. Focus was given to infrastructure projects like IT support and government digitalization.
As part of the European Union macro-financial measures, countries executed refinancing operations, asset purchase programs and loans to SMEs, self-employed individuals, and households. Germany provided grants for small businesses and €2 billion ($2.36 billion) of venture capital funding for startups and launched subsidies and investment in green energy and digitalization. France also added incentives for greener vehicles and exempted the tourism sector from taxes and social security contributions. Switzerland provided financial aid to particularly-affected firms and expanded the loan guarantee program for startups.
In Asia-Pacific, China focused on support for manufacturers of medical supplies and daily necessities, micro, small and medium-sized firms, and the agricultural sector. In Japan, emergency economic packages included cash handouts to all individual and affected firms, and the Bank of Japan worked in coordination with a variety of institutions and countries.
Latin America was particularly affected as the virus continues to expand. Brazil declared a state of “public calamity” and created a separate budget to support vulnerable households. It also lowered taxes and import levies on essential medical supplies.
As we can see, countries made investments, gave loans to SMEs and larger companies, supported greener options, and exempted certain sectors, like tourism, from taxes and contributions. This allowed for many entrepreneurs to sustain their businesses and, in some cases, thrive.
New Opportunities and Strategies
Governments are not the only ones helping. GoFundMe and Yelp partnered to introduce microgrants and fundraising tools for small businesses affected by COVID-19, and Amazon announced a Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund in the Seattle area. Facebook did the same with their Small Business Grant Program, which is available in the 30 countries where the company operates.
In many cases, businesses’ chances of performing better depend on factors that are not under their control. Airlines can receive subsidies, but that won’t change the fact that people are severely restricting their flying during COVID-19 times.
Companies that could switch to online models, in particular e-commerce, have done generally better. Remote work has also allowed several enterprises to survive and thrive, as productivity rates seem to have kept a steady increase.
Additionally, businesses have had to change how they function by targeting new customers, shifting the focus of their products, or aligning with pandemic relief efforts. Some have been aided by name recognition and loyal clients, while others have appealed to pure stunning innovation — and succeeded.
Although the hospitality sector had to face a particularly challenging time, Airbnb came up with an initiative to help house 100,000 healthcare professionals. The French luxury group LVMH used its perfume and cosmetics factories to produce hand sanitizer. Tunisian startup IntiGo temporarily became a delivery service, and the UK’s Department for Transport is considering including escooters, ecargo bikes, and on-demand buses.
While the world prepares for a much-expected vaccine, companies cannot stand idle. The 2020 scenario can greatly benefit those who manage to develop a flexible approach for the future.
Times change — that’s a given — and with time, great ideas will follow.
About the Author
Yisela Alvarez Trentini is an Anthropologist + User Experience / Human-Computer Interaction Designer with an interest in emerging technologies, social robotics, and VR/AR.