By Mark Ritson
It’s worth drawing out a spectrum of impact for the grim commercial COVID-19 period ahead. At the apocalyptic end of it are all the massage businesses that sprung up around Australia during the past decade. The potent combination of originating in China, requiring you to sit in proximity to other patrons while being squeezed all over by a stranger makes this the most untenable business in the new normal of COVID-19.
Close behind are all the other businesses that depend on social interaction and proximity. We already know cinemas, restaurants and travel businesses are being devastated. But few have stopped to consider the other likely victims of the pandemic. You’d be advised to buy some hair bands, for example, because no one is getting their hair cut for the foreseeable future. And spare a thought, too, for driving instructors, dentists and taxi drivers. None will do well in the months ahead.
The slightly better news is that as you move away from the extreme end of the coronavirus spectrum of impact there does appear to be hope for some businesses. Provided they can make the necessary adjustments, there is no reason that many firms cannot continue to trade well.
Accounting firm Bluerock last week reminded clients the firm was set up to advise them through all kinds of conditions and that the current situation demanded the same approach, albeit with different ways of working. Thanks to coronavirus, the firm was seeing new opportunities and embraced the challenges ahead.
It was a rare glimpse into the kind of entrepreneurial thinking that Australia now needs to keep the wheels of its economy in motion. For all the talk of government handouts and mortgage holidays, the real focus should be on adapting to coronavirus trading so companies can stay afloat, employees can earn a wage, and families can be fed.
In the middle of the spectrum are businesses that can continue to trade and prosper. The big question for these firms is not how long they will need to close for, but how quickly some of them can pivot to home delivery and other modes of exchange. Diners might not be able to eat out any more, but they surely still need something other than home-made monstrosities. Many businesses will falter and fail in the months ahead. The nimble will emerge ultimately stronger, leaner and ready to grow again.
Finally, it is worth remembering that not every business is being battered by coronavirus. On the other end of the spectrum from opticians, masseurs and hairdressers are the sectors where COVID-19 brings benefits rather than bankruptcy.
We are already seeing enormous spikes in television viewing, streaming uptake and internet usage as the working-from- home revolution begins. Amazon and eBay are about to become even stronger too. Their instant, asocial access to consumer homes mean they are already poised to prosper in the COVID-19 world.
Best of all there is ZOOM. The small Chinese component manufacturer has seen its share price rocket over the past month as investors mistake it for the suddenly ubiquitous teleconferencing app also called Zoom. It’s a small but pleasant reminder than even in the depths of the gloom, some firms can and will do well.