The declaration regulating the state of alarm to alleviate the coronavirus has ordered the closure of all retail stores, except those of primary necessity such as supermarkets or pharmacies. In the list of businesses that may continue to be open, the Internet, telephone, or correspondence commerce is also included, so that, for the moment, it is possible to make purchases online, order dinner or even order a dress or shoes.
After the limitation of travel announced by the government, precisely the online channel is presented as an alternative to supply households not only with necessities, but also with electronic articles, leisure, prepared food, or even fashion. As per our experts they are noticing a 50% increase in the use of the Now service, deliveries in one or two hours, or for food orders. This reality opens several questions related to health and the economy. Is it possible to get infected through an infected package? Should we contribute to the economic recovery by buying online despite the risk that it may pose to couriers?
Zero risk does not exist, but it is very low in the case of online purchases. The virus can survive several hours on certain surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic, but it is highly dependent on its initial charge. The possibility of an item being contaminated by a virus and subsequently infecting a buyer is remote, but recommended washing hands after touching and opening the package as a precaution. There should be no risk because a virus dies within a few hours if it is not invading a living organism. By the time the package is shipped and reaches its recipient, it would have already died.
Although the possibility of becoming infected through this route is small, the concern about contact with the courier and the hygiene of the merchandise has led many companies to activate special protocols. Such as Zomatoo it already has a service contactless in which the dealer leaves the food at the door avoiding all kinds of approach. for example, which will only keep the food and basic necessities areas open in its physical warehouses, makes it possible to purchase online and collect it free of charge in the car park from their centers without leaving the car. In this way, the client is not exposed to a possible contagion while reducing the exposure of the distributors. Courier companies ask the consignees to use their own ballpoint pen to sign the receipt of the package or it is even the delivery man himself who performs it in his place, always maintaining the minimum safety distance of one meter. However, a 30-second interaction with a delivery man should not be the main source of infection. The risk increases when the contact is around or exceeds 15 minutes.
The most decisive companies have even stopped operating online. The Domino’s Pizza chain of pizzerias has announced the suspension of home delivery. Although at the beginning of the crisis they offered to send without contact, in a statement they explained that after listening to the requests of their collaborators and evaluating the situation, they have made this decision in an exercise of responsibility and commitment. The measure, which also affects other restaurants, it is one of the first in this direction taken by a large company.
The disease is a challenge for online commerce , especially in the food sector, where peaks are already being registered. I think most stores are prepared to deal with this increase, but the problems may be in logistics. There have already been problems and failures in deliveries in times of high demand such as Christmas, so we will have to see if the same thing happens now.
The entertainment sector is another of those with the highest demand these days. It is already appreciated that application downloads and the sale of streaming services have increased. Although platforms like HBO or Netflix prefer not to give data, experts are convinced that the highs will grow during the quarantine, since many users will seek purely playful content, fleeing the endless hours of news coverage on general television.
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Just as it happened with the SARS outbreak (another species of coronavirus that affected Southeast Asia in 2003), the epidemic will make brands bet on reinforcing their online presence. In China, many firms that lived almost with their backs to electronic commerce are already joining powerful platforms in this field to market and send with their help those products that had stopped in physical stores after their closure. In the Asian country, automated deliveries using wheeled platforms are much more widespread than here, a method that has played in favor.
What happens to the clothes?
In the case of orders related to clothing, in addition to all the above, other particular issues come into play. Although buying clothes does not seem to make much sense at a time when it is not possible to go outside, taking a look at online stores is, for many, a way of disconnection and entertainment from the wasteland of social activities that invades us. Receiving the package also marks a turning point in the confinement routine and somehow gives hope by mentally projecting the moment when new acquisitions can finally come in handy. Science supports how shopping can change our mood. According to a study buying can improve a bad mood, a conclusion supported by other research from the Journal of Consumer Psychology. This second study concluded that shopping not only causes immediate happiness, but can help combat sadness or stress, two of the feelings most present in our lives these days.
So, are fashion brands still registering orders during the quarantine? Will there be peaks in the online commerce sector or is it difficult to sell clothes in times of crisis? People right now do not have the body to buy clothes and they are already being noticed in online sales. When the first containment measures were taken, such as the closure of educational centers, a small increase was seen in e-commerce in the sector since people preferred to avoid physical stores. Now, however, consumers are not investing in garments that they are currently unable to wear. A situation very similar to that of Italy, where the consumption of online clothing was active at the beginning of the crisis, but later purchases turned to the sectors of primary need – food or drugstore – as the situation worsened.
Many clothing brands have been quick to communicate to their customers that they will continue to operate online and will not only intensify the service linked to these sales in order to meet delivery times (which for the moment have suffered some delays in supermarkets, but have not have been modified in fashion and leisure stores), but will increase hygiene measures in logistics centers. While in some brands (for example, Oysho), as well as in other large chains such as Mango, mid-season sales are activated that help incentivize the purchase. Many small firms pursue the same goal by offering discount codes through their social networks (such as designer Moisés Nieto) or free shipping.
Others, however, choose to lower the blind also from their digital store. They think that with our clothes we make many people happy, but in the end clothes are clothes and right now it is something secondary.
Although home orders continue to work, it is obvious that store pickup is affected, as well as many of the usual collection points, which are usually small shops and also remain closed. Customers who have yet to pick up an order at one of these points will be able to do it once they open again, they detail to this magazine from Mango, which has also extended the deadline for exchange or return to two months. Both the logistics warehouse and the transport companies are taking the necessary measures to carry out the work with maximum safety for both employees and customers.
Clothes for everyone?
Large chains and firms in the industry can offer their customers also a factor to consider. Although it is difficult to predict the impact of the outbreak. Zara, for example, relies on its supply chain to constantly feed its extensive catalog, and according to UBS predictions, retailers with high inventory turnover will likely be affected sooner than those with low inventory turnover.
China, the largest fashion factory in the world, is not only decisive in the production of finished products, but also in that of fabrics. Hence, experts point out that sports brands could be one of the most affected sectors since they need technical fabrics and other specific materials to make their articles. The group to which Primark belongs has also acknowledged that there is a risk of clothing shortages facing the end of the year if production delays in China continue.
It is going to be a difficult year for fashion. The spring 2020 season will be the most affected by the crisis, we will also see negative repercussions in the autumn 2020 season, and unfortunately, I think the spring 2021 season will also be affected. Although by then the virus has been combated, the stock of unsold products that many stores are accumulating will also have an impact on next year’s results. In summary, this crisis will have a negative impact on our industry until June 2021.
Reselling clothes or renting, alternatives that were gaining weight in favor of sustainability and circularity, could also be affected. In addition to citing a Harvard Health study that points out that there is no evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted from soft surfaces such as fabrics or rugs, the company says it subjects its garments to a high-temperature vaporization process to kill viruses.