Updated: Mar 31, 2020
There is only one topic on everyone’s mind at the minute - coronavirus.
We are living through tough and turbulent times, but through this pain we are also witnessing immense kindness.
In these past few weeks and days, I’ve seen brands in our industry show selflessness, solidarity, community, empathy and light.
We're all in this together after all. This is on our doorstep, in our homes and will affect our lives for many months to come.
And the kindness, openness and collaboration I have seen from many individuals and brands is astonishing.
Fashion: People Need People
For many businesses, staff working from home is little more than an inconvenience thanks to technology. But not all companies are able to carry on with their everyday business activities.
Physical retail stories, deliveries and manufacturing have all been affected.
There has been a wave of global store closures in the past couple of days, with stores looking likely to be shut until April (at the earliest).
However, brands such as Patagonia are going the extra mile to ensure their employees are taken care of even though they are unable to work.
Founder Yvon Chouinard is once again choosing to put employees first and likely forgoing profits. The company has promised to pay its employees while it shutters all stores and offices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The scale of impact is still unknown, and we want to do our part to protect our community especially while testing availability is unknown”
Rose Marcario, CEO and President of Patagonia, wrote in a letter posted on the company's website on Friday, march 13.
“It’s everyone’s responsibility to help stop the spread of this virus.”
Many other retail chains, including Apple, Everlane and Urban Outfitters, are choosing to do the same and pay their employees for lost shifts.
Beauty: Selflessness and Self Care
Companies in the Beauty industry are similarly adjusting their way of working, and big names are accepting their moral obligation to help those in need.
In a true show of community spirit, LVMH has announced that they will use their resources to produce hand disinfectant gel. This is to help alleviate nationwide shortages of the product in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The beauty giant will provide the gels free of charge to French health authorities and Assistance Publique-Hospitaux de Paris.
To support those in need, Shiseido announced the “Relay of Love Project” in the hope that everyone affected may return to health and safety as soon as possible. They donated £1.2 million to support the procurement of necessary materials for medical treatment and infection prevention.
The company also promised to donate a portion of regional sales for continuous supporting actions.
Companies are also evaluating their regular practices and making restrictions to reduce the risk of infection. Makeup artists are finding alternative ways to apply makeup, companies look for new ways to entice customers without using makeup testers and all brands are now putting hygiene at the forefront.
Luxury: Landed in Deep Water
Italy is regarded as the home of luxury fashion houses and there are some great examples of brands helping their nation in need.
Prada announced that the company would be funding two new ICUs in three of Milan’s hospitals.
Donatella Versace and her daughter Allegra Versace Beck have pledged more than $200,000 to the intensive care units of the San Raffaele hospital in Milan.
Early last month, Bulgari contributed to the research department at the Istituto Lazzaro Spallanzani in Rome, which was working to help fight and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Giorgio Armani donated nearly $1.4 million to various hospitals around Italy.
Marco Bizzarri, the chief executive officer of Gucci, personally gave more than $100,000 to hospitals in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, which has some of the highest numbers of infected coronavirus patients.
Sergio Rossi also donated more than $100,000.
Renzo Rosso’s Only The Brave Foundation shared an Instagram post asking followers to donate directly to the foundation so that they can distribute funds to smaller, more localised community organisations
Lifestyle: Health First
With social distancing now the norm for many, people are reluctant to visit the gym or go to their usual yoga or spinning class. However, this pandemic has made many realise that they need to put their health first and businesses like these are likely to see an increase in customers once the worst is over. Especially as people have been cooped up indoors for so long!
Furthermore, brands like Calm showing that these are not just scary and turbulent times for physical health, but mental health as well. Co-Founder and CEO Michael Acton Smith recently stated:
“Our mental health is under tremendous strain because of the swirling uncertainty, stress and anxiety… We’re working on a bunch of new ideas and free resources so will share soon.”
What Does the Future for These Industries Hold?
There have been many concerns for businesses not just regarding their strategy to get them through this pandemic and negotiate the tough road after the worst has passed. For many, there are concerns about whether or not their business will survive this.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently pledged £330bn to help businesses “small and large” get through this pandemic. Whether this will be enough remains to be seen. It seems like this will be a drop in the ocean of what it will take for many companies to stay afloat.
One client of ours, who, like many others, are facing unprecedented uncertainty. They have shut their stores and are instead investing their resources into ecommerce and digital campaigns.
This strategy seems like a practical way to continue sales and even profits. Although until online sales statistics are gathered, it remains to be seen whether people working from home or self-isolating will spend more time shopping online, or reduce their online shopping habits due to recession fears.
This pandemic may have an effect on brands loyalty as we repay the brands who were selfless and moral during this time. I hope people remember the companies that have put others in need before their own profit margins.
What Can We Take Away From This Situation?
My biggest takeaways are how we are all so interconnected, so dependent on each other.
The conversations have been deeper, more meaningful.
I’ve felt a greater sense of unity and solidarity, which is what gives me hope that we will come out the other end stronger than ever.
Like most things this will pass and we will laugh about the toilet roll we’ll be trying to get through over the next few months.
And in the meantime, what can we do? How can we make the most of this time and get back on track once the cloud has lifted?
Pick up that phone - call your mum, grandad, your old school friend or client you’ve not talked to in a while. Everyone will want to feel connected especially if they haven’t been able to leave the house in a while.
Use technology to help someone out. Your elderly neighbours may not be able to wait in the online queue for Ocado, so if you can, offer to do their grocery shop.
Review your strategy - your personal life (health, career, etc) your business plan, who are you going to be hiring next? Who or what will help you grow?
Continue doing the same things as much as you can - exercise at home (this Peloton bike is going to be even more useful now), keep pace with the projects, the world will be there when dust has settled
Make social time matter - carve out an hour / half an hour /15 minutes of together time - anything with your kids, partners, anyone you might be sharing your space with right now.
Create and innovate - Isaac Newton invented calculus when forced to stay at home during the Great Plague of London.
And as for hiring - the plans may be put on hold or you might need to rethink what is the priority for right now.
We are here when you are ready to continue or even now when people are more open and easier to talk to.
For now, we will continue working remotely and taking care of each other should any of us get ill or are not able to work. And I mean practically, emotionally and financially.
Talk with me.
Stay safe and look after each other.