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The Impact of Coronavirus on Retailing

April 2020

Nothing in the modern evolution of the industry has compared with the global disruption caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Given that retailers sell across categories, the pandemic will negatively impact some more than others. The outlook is strongest for essential businesses, such as grocery retailers, and those with more well-equipped digital operations.

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Key Findings

COVID-19 will severely impact both the supply and demand sides of the economy

The pandemic has forced governments to quarantine entire countries, disrupted supply chains, slashed business and consumer confidence and affected financial markets. Euromonitor International’s baseline forecast for global real economic growth in 2020 is in the range of -1.5 to .5%.

Some retailers will fare better than others

The restrictions have led to the collapse of the travel industry, but the impact will not be as severe in retailing. Retailers sell across categories, meaning that the pandemic will negatively impact some channels more than others.

Past economic downturns provide clues as to the impact on retail

The Global Financial Crisis had a severe impact on consumer markets. The overall retail industry declined by 3% in 2009, but rebounded in 2010, with 6% growth. Past public health emergencies, like the SARS and MERS outbreaks, also provide clues as to how retailing may fair amid the crisis.

Retailers grappling with a “new normal” during pandemic outbreak

The uncertainty of COVID-19’s impact on the economy has prompted retailers to withdraw their earnings outlooks for the quarter and/or whole year. Some are exploring filing for bankruptcy to restructure debt and others are borrowing against their lines of credit to ensure proper cash flow.

Pandemic will reshape retail moving forward

Big consumer shifts are already under way as society evolves from a carefree world to one under lockdown. This phase is likely to lead to a permanent boost in ecommerce and contactless payments as well a potential divergence of the supply chain or a reimagined store pick-up.

Technology will become forever linked with commerce henceforth

Technology is here to stay. This crisis has underscored the important role that technology plays in how consumers live, work, shop and play. Some companies are already making acquisitions to boost their tech capabilities.


Key findings
Retailing and COVID-19
COVID-19 in context

Economic Outlook

Global GDP is likely to contract in 2020 under the baseline scenario
The COVID-19 pandemic impacts both supply and demand
In our baseline view, the pandemic peaks in June 2020
Three scenarios examine the impact of a more severe outbreak
Our view in short
Forecasts for Real GDP growth in 2020 under different scenarios
Financial markets on risk-off mode as COVID-19 entered Italy
China: an early glimpse into the economic cost of the virus
COVID-19 highlights need for supply chain diversification
Fiscal stimulus a challenge with restrictions on expenditure
What could alleviate the economic effects of the pandemic?
What could exacerbate the economic impact of the pandemic?

Industry Impact

COVID-19 pandemic shines spotlight on online shopping
COVID-19 leads to shortages across essential categories
An unprecedented shock to the retailing industry
Routes to disruption
The five-step consumer progression of COVID-19
Global Financial Crisis: the most recent downturn of this magnitude
Global Financial Crisis has a deep impact on consumer behaviour
MERS outbreak in South Korea negatively impacts store sales
E-commerce shines during MERS outbreak in South Korea
China’s retail sector bounces back quickly after SARS epidemic
China provides early indication into COVID-19 economic recovery
China’s experience indicates pace of recovery for other markets
What other markets might glean from China’s COVID-19 recovery
Significant contraction in retail sales certain in 2020
Factors that could impact these long-term forecasts

Corporate Response

Long-term impact largely unknown as COVID-19 spreads globally
How retailers are responding to today’s pandemic (1)
How retailers are responding to today’s pandemic (2)
How retailers are responding to today’s pandemic (3)
Those in the retail ecosystem likely to fare better amid the crisis
Those in the retail ecosystem likely to be hit hardest by the crisis
Case study: Alibaba Cloud enables companies to quickly shift online
Case study: Lockdown tests UK online grocery pioneer Ocado
Case study: Walmart experiences a 30% jump in online orders
Case study: Wabi helps small stores digitise during the crisis
Main challenges for retailers moving forward


Pandemic will birth new ideas, products and businesses
SARS helped JD.com and Alibaba rise to e-commerce prominence
SARS may have better prepared China for COVID-19 lockdown
How the pandemic may change retailing in the future (1)
How the pandemic may change retailing in the future (2)
How the pandemic may change retailing in the future (3)
How a subsequent recession could impact retailing in the future
Technology will be interwoven with commerce henceforth

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