The novel coronavirus continues to spread across the world and, by now, has reached over 200 countries with a total of more than 3 million cases. In an effort to contain it, governments are enacting social distancing measures that have had a paralyzing effect on the economy.
We’ve seen oil prices plunge from lack of demand, airlines are cutting flights and suspending workers, and factories no longer have access to raw materials to continue production. Hotels, restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters are all shutting down, and even when these safety measures will be relaxed, we can’t be sure that consumers will go back to their previous spending patterns.
Unemployment has reached record highs even in highly developed nations like the U.S., where the Trump administration is passing economic relief bills amounting to almost $3 trillion. A large chunk of these funds is going to the Paycheck Protection Program that offers loans to small businesses as long as they keep their employees on the payroll.
Many industry sectors have had to radically alter their business strategies just to stay afloat, but not all are hurting from the disruptions caused by the pandemic. Some are experiencing unprecedented growth and are trying to figure out ways to turn this unique opportunity into something more sustainable.
Unsurprisingly, one sector that’s currently thriving is e-commerce. As consumers are turning to online shopping to limit the risk of becoming infected with the virus, many are hoping that e-commerce can help mitigate the harmful impact this outbreak has had on the economy.
Amazon, the leading online retailer, announced that it would hire another 75,000 workers to keep up with the increased demand. Wayfair, another internet based retailer specializing in home goods, has seen its growth rate double in late March and reported higher demand in several categories both in its domestic market as well as internationally.
Since more people are working remotely, there’s been a rise in orders for home office furniture and supplies. Schools have shut down, so parents are also buying playroom items and children’s furniture.
JustSeed, an online store from the U.K. specialized in plant seeds, reports such a sharp increase in demand for staples like tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, and beans that they’re had to stop taking orders so they can keep up with deliveries. Many other seed companies have stopped answering the phone.
Customers are either worried about a future shortage of fresh vegetables, or they’re simply looking for something to do. Indoors, many are fighting the boredom of confinement by taking up sewing and knitting. Sales in knitting and sewing accessories have quadrupled. Psychologists are speculating that this behavior stems from the soothing effect a repetitive activity such as knitting has on the human brain.
In the face of a virus outbreak, many people are searching for ways to boost their immunity and maintain their mental health. The medical system is strained by the high number of infected patients, and those at home, dealing with the anxiety that comes from isolation and troubling news headlines, are turning to the wellness industry. Sales of home fitness equipment have increased, especially for products like home exercise programs, yoga mats, dumbbells, and skipping ropes. Online trainers who upload their content on platforms like YouTube have also seen a surge in subscribers and live Fitness classes on platforms like PP Sport are getting five times more viewers.
CBD products like Hawaiian Haze, oils, tinctures, and edibles were already popular before the pandemic, but now sales have increased since customers use them to relieve anxiety and sleep better. An analysis of social media posts containing the term CBD shows that it was most commonly associated with self-care. There are a number of studies showing that the cannabinoid has anxiolytic properties and can improve sleep quality.
We need to keep in mind that these social distancing measures, although useful in slowing down the spread of the virus, also increase the rate of mental health issues stemming from isolation. We can expect the population to experience anxiety, insomnia, and symptoms of depression at higher rates. Those that were already receiving treatment for diagnosed psychiatric disorders have limited access to resources and may see their symptoms worsening.
The wellness industry and these self-care practices give people a sense of control during these times of uncertainty.
Streaming has become a big part of our lives now, and the figures show it. The time spent on streaming platforms has increased by over 30% in March, with a collective 116.4 billion minutes only in the first week.
Netflix, Amazon, and Disney all report a surge in viewership. The biggest share of the traffic (29%) went to Netflix, followed by YouTube (20%), Hulu (10%), and Amazon (9%). Other platforms, including Disney+ and CBS All Access, make up the other 32%.
The lockdown couldn’t have come at a better time for streaming giant Netflix. The company had been under threat from competitors flooding the market. Apple, Disney, NBC, and Warner Media had all launched their own platforms and were not only poaching customers, but also withdrawing come of the content they had previously licensed to Netflix. But now, with so many people stuck at home, no live sports events, and many shows forced to halt production, customers are less likely to cancel their Netflix subscription and lose access to its vast content library.
In fact, the number of subscriptions increased by 15.8 million in March. While big studios have postponed release dates because of movie theaters closing, Netflix has continued to add original content since most of its projects were already shot and in post-production.
Disney+ has gained over 50 million subscribers since it was launched last year, 20 million of them from when the pandemic started. In March, traffic increased by 43%, and Disney’s stock had gone up. The company is considering releasing some of its upcoming movies directly onto the platform to attract more customers. On the 29th of March, it expanded to India, after already launching in western European countries like the UK, France, and Germany.