By Eliana Barriga
Publisher and Managing Editor for The Retail Observer
It’s March 10, 2020 and I am contemplating the past two weeks — concern over potential event cancellations stemming from the coronavirus outbreak have evolved quite rapidly. The coronavirus outbreak is first and foremost a human tragedy, affecting more than 110,000 people globally as of this writing (source: World Health Organization). It is also having a growing impact on the global economy.
It was only a week ago that we were nervously discussing the possibility of event cancellations, and this has now become a reality. The domino effect had begun with the cancellation of the 2020 Inspired Home Show, IHA’s Global Home + Housewares Market in Chicago. Soon thereafter, the Architectural Digest Design Show in New York City announced the rescheduling of their show to June 25-28.
Fears over the growing global coronavirus outbreak sparked widespread economic worries, wild stock market swings that left small business owners feeling the ripple effects of canceled or re-scheduled conferences, travel reservations, closed factories, and nervous consumers. Cancellation rates have been running more than 60 percent and we expect that number to rise.
Conference cancellations have wide-reaching effects for many industries, including freight, show promoters, labor unions, manufacturers, and convention facility bookings. With many tradeshow organizers unsure of when or where to reschedule their events, a challenge has arisen to minimize the loss of trade show booth materials already on trucking routes. The logistics involved are very complicated in minimizing the financial repercussions.
Meanwhile, Chinese factory closures have affected U.S. businesses immensely. The inability to secure parts and inventory combined with shipping delays have been devastating. The New York Times reported that due to the coronavirus outbreak, cargo volumes at U.S. ports might be down by 20 percent or more on a year-on-year basis compared to 2019.
Where should your business focus? Start by protecting your employees. Set up a response team, as this crisis has been emotionally challenging for many people. Ensure that your financial liquidity is sufficient to weather the storm ahead. Optimize your accounts payable and receivables as well as any cost reduction methods you can employ.
The coronavirus crisis is a story with an unclear ending. What is clear is that the human impact is already tragic. We need to act swiftly and consciously to protect our employees by addressing the many challenges and risks by mitigating the outbreak in whatever ways we can.
Stay calm and carry on,