Skip to content

COVID-19 a big blow to business

Ada Slivinski: As behaviours shift, many businesses know they’ll necessarily take a hit, and are trying to prepare.
(rblfmr /

Last week, I received an email from the owner of the coworking space I work from. She is allowing members to suspend their membership for two weeks free of charge if they’re worried about coronavirus. This comes at a not-inconsequential cost to them; it’s tough to fill a desk for two weeks, so inevitably there’s a loss in revenue.

Starbucks has put a temporary ban on personal cups at their coffee shops to help prevent the virus from spreading. More generally, many restaurants and cafes seem a bit more public and showy about their cleaning schedule.

Nordstrom’s chief executive officer and chief brand officer Erik and Pete Nordstrom, respectively, sent out the following email:

“Our stores are cleaned and sanitized daily as part of our normal course of business. Over the past few weeks, we’ve increased the frequency and extent of those cleanings, in addition to adding resources like hand sanitizer throughout the store for both customers and employees.”

In the same email, they also thanked recipients for “being a loyal customer.” A sign, it seems, that if business isn’t suffering already, they are preparing for it.

Airports are eerily empty and many international flights are now offered at a deep discount. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, all non-essential travel to Italy should be avoided. That means four star hotels are advertising rates as low as $50 per night and many flights are deeply discounted.

Conferences are being canceled, including the Toronto-based “Collision” conference, which offers attendees an option to either attend online from home or receive a refund for their ticket. In Seattle, staff at Amazon, Seattle, Microsoft, and Facebook have been asked to work from home.

Stock markets have plummeted. The US Federal Reserve cut interest rates by half a percentage point and the US is bracing for a potential recession. Goldman Sachs has estimated that the coronavirus outbreak could reduce economic growth by a full percentage point in 2020.

But at this point, toilet paper sales are up, as is the demand for hand sanitizer and fancy face masks seen on the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow are sold out. Radio hosts and lifestyle bloggers in Vancouver were making fun of the toilet paper shortage as Vancouverites stocked up at Costco.

If it’s anything like the Spanish Flu, experts predict coronavirus will come in two waves: a milder springtime wave; and then a more deadly fall sweep. In the meantime, it’s a good time to book a flight, renew a mortgage, and get a coffee or a haircut at your local spot.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at [email protected]