Big Cat prides themselves on the diverse array of sectors they work within. Like many marketing agencies across the UK, the Covid-19 pandemic has meant work within most of these sectors has ground to a halt as companies close their doors and their workforces are either furloughed or working from home. Retail, Leisure, Hospitality, Charities and Public Services are the big five sectors we work with, all of which have felt the economic ramifications of a global lockdown.
The immediate outlook for the world of marketing as well as these sectors isn’t particularly rosy, but Big Cat is hastened to add that it isn’t all doom and gloom. A crisis can present companies with unique opportunities for growth if they are both smart and brave, as this piece details below.
But first, what do our sectors currently look like?
According to a report by Nosto, revenues have fallen by more than 30% for online fashion retailers across the United States and in Europe. The performance of fashion, apparel and accessories eCommerce merchants from March 1st to 25th, 2020 was tracked and compared to the same period in 2019. On top of this, the future of shopping centres has also been thrown into doubt as many have stopped paying rent.
Whilst there has been a newfound reliance on e-commerce during the pandemic, ‘retail therapy’ and generic online shopping is still at risk due to supply chain concerns. Much of the fashion industry’s manufacturing relies on Asian factories, many of which remain closed indefinitely.
Conversely, for some brands an estimated £10bn of clothing has piled up in British warehouses during the lockdown, with companies such as Primark, Peacocks and Next ceasing all deliveries due to their warehouses being full. The last week has seen both Debenhams and Cath Kidston putting in preparations to call in administrators, leaving thousands of jobs at risk in an already struggling retail sector.
Given the increasing public knowledge around the benefits of exercise for both physical and mental wellbeing, this is one of the aspects of outdoor life that has transitioned well into isolation life and is still a priority in people’s minds, especially when many have more time on their hands than they did before. Many digital fitness brands have found themselves in a more fortunate position than traditional brick and mortar brands, as they are already equipped to deal with a remote customer base, and have therefore seen a surge in demand as people look for ways to stay in shape during this period of quarantine.
Given the nature of coronavirus and how it spreads, large gatherings which include many traditional music festivals and concerts were some of the first events to be postponed or cancelled. For instance, in the UK, there has been a ban on mass gatherings of more than 500 people in place since March 16th which has left many left a huge number of events hanging in the balance as new dates are pushed further and further back.
The hospitality industry faces at the very least a period of uncertainty over the coming months, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing months-long shutdowns of high streets across the UK. The nationwide lockdown has seen revenues for businesses in this sector almost completely dry up. Although legislation has been drawn up to help mitigate losses, including bans on evicting commercial tenants for three months; although there are calls from industry bosses for this to be doubled.
Demand has obviously shifted to in the home for time being, and many take-out restaurants and aggregator apps are offering free delivery to capture share in this demand shift. Some delivery start-ups have experienced a month-on-month demand boost of 25 percent and are experimenting with bulk versions of their offering. Takeaway is a more tenable solution for restaurants to get around the lockdown measures however this is still not without risk to the health of all those involved in the delivery process from the chefs to the drivers to the recipients.
Amidst this crisis, it is easy to forget the plight of others in need outside of the corona bubble. It will be a tough period for charities who are going to need to think outside the box in order to maintain their relevance.
The Government has announced various financial measures to help the economy during the coronavirus outbreak, however only those charities where more than 50% of their income is from trading will have access to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans – meaning the vast majority will not be able to access additional funds.
The chances are disposable income during this unprecedented crisis will likely fluctuate for many individuals, and these effects will most probably be felt hardest by charities. Getting creative, reminding your donors of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, as well as moving events and donations online can all help charities mitigate losses in donations during the pandemic. Using social media as a tool to bring your donors together when you’re unable to do this physically will be a prerequisite to any charity’s resilience in these tough times.
The transport industry has been one of the hardest hit industries during the coronavirus pandemic, as revenues slowly ground to a halt and lockdown measures got tighter and tighter. With the country only travelling when essential and people working from home, transport companies have been looking for a government bailout to help cover the costs of running during a pandemic.
With lockdown measures easing over the last fortnight, the government has announced a £283m funding package for roads, railways, buses and trams to get ready for a return to usage with new strict safety measures. The money will be spent on making adjustments to vehicles, signage, deep cleaning and the provision of hand sanitiser, as well as deploying over three thousand staff at stations to enforce social distancing measures.
These announcements have been mirrored by the Department for Transport announcing that £225m will be spent on the building of temporary and permanent cycle lanes across England to encourage cycling instead of public transport when necessary.
Is it all doom and gloom for the marketing industry?
No. It doesn’t have to be. Whilst things may seem so far from normality right now, there is still ample opportunity for marketers to be getting ready for the inevitable post Covid-19 bounceback. Peter Field detailed these opportunities with the most clarity. With any recession there is the inexorable down period, with a bounceback period at the end. Field accepts that this is a recession of increased polarisation, with potential lower lows than will ultimately deliver highs at the end of it bigger than any previous recession, and marketers need to be ready.
What should marketers be doing? 'Short termism vs long term strategy'
Field recognises the temptation for marketers to double down in crisis periods and opt for short term strategies like promotional strategies. The lessons derived from the 2008 financial crisis suggest short termism can reinforce profit loss and dependency. Maintaining a positive Share of Voice (which may be possible with reduced expenditure during a recession) can lead to a much stronger profitability growth in the period of recovery, more than compensating for any short term financial hit. You’re advertising for the then not then now. Long termism isn’t about shoring up short term sales, but setting up your company to emerge from a recession in the best possible position to prosper and grow. Finally, companies at their very core should not move away from demonstrating humanity and generosity during these tricky times, especially if they preached these virtues during the good times. Good words must be followed by good deeds. Solidarity is the order of the day, and any campaigns that companies run preaching these virtues will only be ready to thrive on the other side.