Defying the Odds: Companies That Are Actually Thriving During the Global Pandemic

It cannot be denied that 2020 is the year when each of us tried our best to live our best lives. When the coronavirus becomes a global pandemic and has been affecting the entire world, most of us have been struggling and try to cope with conditions rather than thrive. But this does not apply to everyone. Since people across the globe rely more heavily on online products and platforms as they are forced to socially distancing, a lot of technology companies behind those offerings have actually thrived for the last 12 months. In fact, this is yet their best year.

It is something that is clearly seen this week during the Web Summit. Web Summit is the largest technology conference in Europe that is virtually held for the first time this year. When CEOs, politicians, top executives, and even a number of celebrities gathered together to openly talk about the conditions of technology, the companies that have flourished gave a clear picture about the growth in their sectors.

Josh Silverman and handmade goods website Etsy mentioned that their sales roughly doubled to $10 billion this year. Anne Boden said the pandemic has given the transition to a cashless 10-year jump. On the other hand, Will Shu, the chief of Deliveroo estimated that the coronavirus global pandemic has accelerated the application of online food delivery by 2 to 3 years.

The Comes of Age

During his talk with Lance Bass of NSync, Steven Galanis, the CEO of Cameo described celebrities rushing to his video shout-out application when the global pandemic hit. When the international travel and entertainment industry are forced to stop, the app gives them a way to make money, as said by Galanis. It is also probably related to something to do with their spare time. The CEO of Cameo mentions that the marketing platform is quickly reaching success.

He described that many influencers have been using the app to provide paid-for greetings for their fans. It is more than a conventional brand partnership. Caspar Lee, Jeffries’ co-founder, who is also known as a famous Youtuber, mentioned that creating content during this global pandemic became quite tricky. It is because a lot of his videos are made outdoors on the spot. But regardless of these challenges, Lee has seen a great boost in engagement: a 67% increase in likes and a 50% increase in comments.

The market shrunk for travel influencers, people who make content about fitness and food have seen huge growth, as said by Caspar Lee. He also added that it became easier and more seamless to set up a collaboration with other YouTubers who live in different places as everybody is working from home. Lee also said that it was quite hard to collaborate with people in the States. But during this pandemic, it is possible to do that.

While some people are launching profitable careers, others have switched to technology platforms, including eBay and Etsy to make a little money. Many people utilize Etsy to sell their products and services, such as crafts and handmade goods, while eBay is useful for people who want to offload taking up space in homes. Jamie Iannone, the CEO of eBay said that when people think of goods at their houses that are worth 4000 USD, they bring a very distinctive kind of inventory onto the platform.

People also prefer to browse for used items as their effort to purse their purse strings. Instead of buying brand-new products, buying used items saves a significant amount of money. This is the reason why eBay launches a new certified refurbished one. It gives an award in the form of a 2-year warranty, money-back guarantee, and 30-day hassle-free returns. The program also allows the purchase of products from various brands.

People also buy kinds of things that they suddenly need when they are home during the global pandemic. From eBay, such items include home gym equipment and desks. While for Etsy, the items are mostly masks, as said by Silverman as the Etsy chief executive. There are also people who suddenly need equipment for newly discovered passions or starting their hobbies again. Besides these companies, there is another tech platform that has been flourishing this year, which is Zoom. As you know, most people in the world use this app to take care of their businesses. Even students use the app for online classes.

Business Growth Drops in US as Virus Cases Surge

This time seems like the only time in US history when hiring was sharply slowing down. Last month, the number dropped dramatically as the states have to deal with a surge in cases of coronavirus.

The Labor Department said that in November, employers added about 245,000 jobs, but that is below many experts’ expectations. The jobless rate declined to 6.7 percent from 6.9 percent a month prior. That might be caused by people stopping looking for job vacancies. The report came along when several programs related to coronavirus cases and employment were set to expire at the end of the month. The program that is set to expire includes some unemployment benefits.

Experts stated that the number is an indicator that the recovery of uncertainty in the economic condition seemed to stall. It also underscores the urgency for Congress to take any action for further stimulus. According to a report in October, job numbers reach 610,000 in the US.

Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, stated that job and employment growth had reached its lowest point – let’s put a bottom line on it. The report also suggests that it seems impossible to unlink economic growth and the virus. He also added that the numbers would hopefully increase as the pressure on Congress gets higher.

There are roughly 12 million people who will lose access to several unemployment benefits by the end of 2020 unless the lawmakers sign the additional stimulus. The data came from a recent report conducted by a Left-leaning think tank, the Century Foundation, 

Still, according to the report, more than four million people have lost the unemployment benefits, it found.

Andrew Stettner, a senior in the Century Foundation, stated that it was such an out-of-the-way action of Congress by allowing many workers to be cut off. Stettner also worked on the report.

For instance, Sarah Groome lost her position and her job as an event manager at Major League Soccer in April. This case was caused by disruptions of coronavirus earlier. She also received her last unemployment benefit cheque in October. The 35-year-old’s effort to access the emergency extension related to pandemic has become tangled in authority, even though she has called so many times a day, as her effort to clear up the issue. “I have no income,” said her.

She later found a temporary job as a part-time retailer that could add about USD 100 per week. For paying rent, insurance, and other expenses, she retrieved her savings. She said that she has no idea what she is going to do financially. She already applied to various jobs, maybe over 100 today, but no interview came up. It is horrifying to know nothing about what’s next. On the other hand, around 12 million people in the US would be facing a similar issue soon.

The US regained about half of the jobs lost at this point. However, over 10 million people are unemployed. 40 percent of them have no work for more than six months today, according to the Labor Department. Meanwhile, Americans who are economically inactive are getting higher from time to time.

On the other hand, about 7 million people may need a job but not be included as unemployed since they are not looking for work anymore as reported by Friday’s, recently, officials have rethought about restrictions on activities in some cities. The idea is according to new records of hospitalizations and infections.

The US has reached 14 million infections along with over 274 death cases, as reported by Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, the economy has been painfully slowing down to recover. As the authority restricted support recently, the number of people who come with reports about how their food is not adequate anymore, or difficulty on paying rent and other bills.

James Sullivan, an economic professor, stated that it could lead to a worse economic deprivation unless the authority would take proper yet immediate action soon. Since May, about 7 million Americans have suffered from poverty, many of them are children, and those with no degrees in the university. The government does need to support its people.

Congress took steps to make a possible way to collect up to two years of benefits for those unemployed, after the 2007-2008 financial crisis. However, the eligibility to receive the money will expire after 26 weeks, under normal circumstances.

On the other hand, Republicans and Democrats seem to part ways even though there is no legal proof just yet. Democrats push more money than Republicans offer, which leads to a congressional impasse. On the other hand, a lack of action makes things confusing about whether or not they reach an agreement.

Stores start to open in the UK but the Number is significantly Down on Last December

It is known even since the beginning that the Coronavirus pandemic affects some activities like offline transactions. Even when buyers can buy products online, the value to spend must be not as many as before for the decrease in income. 

However, it seems that the situation is getting better. At least, it is by seeing groups of people who go to High Streets and other shopping centers in the UK this weekend. However, the sellers should not expect that the number of buyers will be as numerous as before. In fact, it is still far below the number before the pandemic.

There are many reasons why people are still afraid of buying products offline including in shopping centers like High Street. The warning of virus transmission is still all around. Making the crowd is considered violating the health protocol so that they may not think that it is a good thing to do on the weekend. 

The First Weekend of the Store Opening

While many customers still think twice about buying things in the stores, this weekend is a great expectation for the sellers. Yes, it is the first weekend since the re-opening of many stores in the UK on Wednesday. It is not exaggerating for sure if the sellers and businessmen really wish that it will work before Christmas. Moreover, there are two lockdowns regulated by the government before that.

Only a Quarter of the Number in 2019

It is reasonable if the sellers want their wishes this Christmas will come true. But at the same time, they must be realistic as well since, in fact, the number of customers who come to the store is only around a quarter of the number in 2019. It is based on the survey conducted by a market research company, Springboard. In the UK entirely, the number of customers decreases by around 30% from the same weekend in December last year.

Following the conditions, there are many businesses and retailers in the UK that are considered a loss and even bankrupt. One of them is the retail of Topshop Arcadia and Debenhams. Debenhams even has stated that it will close around 124 of its shops in March after failing to find customers.

Additionally, Central London remains quieter than how it was usually. Yes, there are still some people seen around particularly in the shopping areas in Regent Street on Saturday. A day after that, on Sunday, the number of customers and visitors is only half compared to the same day last year, reported by Springboard.

Reports from Some Sellers

The pandemic indeed causes a loss for so many people. While there are some of them who think that it is a disaster, they are actually not alone. Businessmen, sellers, and retailers, whether small or big tend to experience this bad moment. Some of those businessmen can survive for sure. However, for some others, it is really difficult to wake up.

One of the boutique owners in the city center of London, Rowena Howie stated that the number of customers in her shop is far less how it should be led up to Christmas. She said that her team is not as busy as before in the store. Commonly, it happens on the first weekend of December. However, Howie is still optimistic that her store can still gain profits although they may not be as many as before. The profits come from online transactions. It is not a new thing for her as she has started online features even before the pandemic.

The same positive vibe is also seen in Anna Blackburn. She is the director of the jewel retails, Beaverbrooks. Well, “It is even the worst year”. However, she also said that the condition seems to get better. At least, in High Street, the number of customers has increased up to 10% this weekend. There is a tendency when people reduce their activities outside. But once they are coming out, it looks like they want to spend more money also.

Interestingly, Blackburn also said that there is an increase in the sales of wedding and engagement rings. “It’s been a tough year; people want to treat their loved ones.”

According to the Center of Retail Research, during the pandemic, it is estimated that more than 20,000 shops will close. Meanwhile, the number of people who lose their jobs has also increased up to 235,000. Yes, the cost to run a store is too expensive for many people. Although online stores are good solutions, the income is still decreased even for the customers also.

Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola’s Attempts to Lobby on the Bill about Forced Labor in Congress

Big companies in the US are reported to consider lobbying congress related to the import of goods that are made with forced labor. Congress has planned to approve the bill only in the near future. Some companies included are not strange names; they are Apple, Coca-Cola, and Nike. 

The issue of forced labor has blown since some time ago. The action is said to be done by the Chinese government in the area of Xinjiang, China. Xinjiang is a home for the minority ethnic of Uyghur that is reported to be tortured by the government. Although the Chinese government has denied the issues several times, some reports said that the condition in Xinjiang is getting worse. It lets many activists press the Chinese government to stop their actions. 

In the US, the bill has been approved by congress in September with votes of 406: 3. Currently, the bill is in the process in the US senates. If it is successfully approved, it means that the US government will officially limit and even prohibit completely imports of the goods dealing with the forced labor in China.

The bill is indeed supported by the US government from both parties; Republican and Democrat. However, it is reasonable if many businesses and companies cannot accept it that easily. Many US businesses depend on the companies along with laborers from China particularly in terms of components and spare parts. Meanwhile, some distribution activities must also pass through China before entering the US.

Additionally, China is one of the big bases of customers for many big companies like Apple, Nike, and Coca Cola. The number of customers in the country is also getting bigger aside from the fact that Chinese people are the biggest population in the world. Based on a report from Apple, the company representative even said that the customers from China have spent around $8 billion to buy its product. It just makes China the third biggest country for Apple’s market after the US and Europe.

Apple Emphasizes It Fights against the Forced Labor

It can be simply concluded that the main reason why those companies attempt to weaken the bill is because of the decrease in their profits. Although they are not denying the claim, Apple emphasizes that there are some points in the bill that are considered disadvantageous for Apple. The representative of the technology company also stated that they surely hate forced labor while mentioning that Apple can support the bill as long as the points are removed.

Apple elaborates evidence that shows their disagreement with the forced labor. In more than a decade, the company has released reports that included data on how they put effort to stop the forced labor. Some types of forced labor they report and stop are related to the long working hours for employees and their fights against the children labor. This year, Apple also describes how they provide protection tools for their employees to support them in the middle of the pandemic.

The attempts of Apple to fight against forced labor are not only for the company itself. Apple claims that it has asked suppliers to bring fair working hours to the employees as well as provide workplaces with high safety and free from discriminations.

The same rebuttal is also said by Nike. The company said to CNBC that it doesn’t lobby for the change of the bill at all. So far, they always prioritize using constructive discussions about human rights in congress. The company also said that it doesn’t take products from the Uighur Autonomy Area in Xinjiang. Even the suppliers of the company also take the materials from other places. The statement is agreed by Coca Cola who said about the same thing.

Criticism from Activists

But no matter how much the effort has been done by Apple to show its empathy toward the forced labor, activists cannot believe it that easily. Badiucao, one of the activists and a well-known Chinese political cartoonist talked to CNBC via phone from Australia. He has used around 74,000 followers on Twitter to launch a series of satire pictures with Nike, Apple, and Coca Cola as the target related to their attempts to weaken the bill.

He said that it is very disappointing to see many big companies try to block the bill about employment fairness. Badiucao also added that what they have done is not right at all. In the end, customers will watch what the companies do and the final decisions are in the customers’ hands, whether they still want to use those big companies’ products or not. 

The Effect of COVID-19: Plane-Maker Airbus to Furlough 3,200 Staff

As we all know, the Earth has been affected by Coronavirus or also known as COVID-19 for several months now. The dangerous virus has been affecting more than 150 countries in all over the world since early 2020. People are forced to stay at home for social distancing so that the spread of the virus can be stopped. Hugs and kisses become a dangerous action for beloved ones. While keeping distances represents love for beloved ones.

It is not only our daily activities that are affected by Coronavirus. Most businesses and industries are going down due to the pandemic. From shipping industries, culinary industries, and even aviation industry. The aviation industry is also affected since some countries in the world apply the lockdown policy in order to stop the spread of the COVID-19. So, people cannot travel as freely as before. Aerospace giant Airbus also feels the effect.

Aerospace giant Airbus is to furlough 3,200 staff at its site located in North Wales. The company has already announced the sad news. The news was delivered hours after Guillaume Faury, the Chief Executive, gave a warning that the company was ‘bleeding cash at an unprecedented speed’. Airbus stated that around half of the staff at its site located in Broughton would be placed on the scheme of the UK government’s job retention, which pays 80% of salaries. The aviation company is expected to add salaries by a further 5% to 10%.

It is said that the furlough periods of support staff and production will be shaking for the next 3 weeks. The remaining staff will keep staying on the site. The remaining staff includes 500 employees who are recently working at the AMRC Cymru facility. They work to build parts for ventilators as a part of the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium. It is announced that the company was already cutting airplane production by a third this month. This condition happens as the aviation industry is estimated to shrink due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

The Chief Executive also told Airbus’ 135,000 staff to be ready for the possibility of deep job cuts. He also warned that the company’s survival is at a bet without any immediate action. The Welsh Government mentioned that it was working with the company. The government also supports high-skilled and professional employees. While the UK government stated that the furlough scheme would be helpful for companies ‘to bounce back and get the economy up and running once the coronavirus emergency is over’.

This week, Airbus will give financial results for the first quarter of 2020. Those numbers will be overshadowed by the virus that makes global airlines struggle so hard to survive and almost totally stop plane deliveries since the lockdown policy started in March. In response to the pandemic, Airbus had already started to apply the furlough scheme that is assisted by the government. It started with 3,000 employees in France and stated it would lower output of its narrow-body jets to 40 a month. Airbus employs about 13,500 workers in the United Kingdom. Most of the workers work by making wings at its 2 main sites that are located in Broughton, in Flintshire, and Filton, Bristol.

Greg Waldron, from the aviation industry news website FlightGlobal, said that Airbus will not be able to survive the crisis if there are no significant layoffs. Even though there will be an extreme pain to go through, Europe will need to help Airbus to survive since it is an essential industry for Europe. Mr. Waldron also stated that we are going to see a big number of layoffs if Airbus cuts the production rates quite significantly. On the other hand, Boeing, which is the main rival of Airbus, is struggling for another crisis. It is because of the year-long grounding of its 737 Max passenger jet, which had been its best-selling plane.

On Saturday, the US aviation giant cancelled a $4.2bn (£3.4bn) tie-up with Brazil’s Embraer. Some analysts saw that the action is triggered by the crisis. However, the company mentioned that it is about contractual reasons that make them take such a decision.

As you can see, almost all industries in this world, including the aviation industry, are getting negatively affected by the pandemic. A lot of workers have to lose their jobs. So, let’s overcome this condition together by obeying the government’s rules and policies. So, it is hoped that all of those affected industries will be able to get on their feet again.