HONG KONG – Although the coronavirus pandemic has sent stock markets into free fall and some industries to the wall, many firms that enable more private, online and tech-based living are emerging as potential winners.
As hundreds of millions of people worldwide are forced to stay in their homes and avoid travel abroad, the businesses that are helping them adapt could lead to long-term changes in the economy.
“I think certain aspects of work and organizing will change for good through the current situation,” said Sally Maitlis, a professor of organizational behavior at Oxford University’s Said Business School.
“People will discover that they can work and communicate in ways they previously didn’t think possible, and will be forced to become more nimble with tech through having no choice to do otherwise.”
Here are comparisons of several sectors that are thriving and failing in the pandemic:
Large online retailers have seen a surge in orders as self-isolating or home-working consumers turn to massive distribution and delivery networks to provide daily essentials.
Shares in U.S. retail giants Walmart and Amazon both tumbled as markets crashed around the world on March 16. During the past week Walmart rose as much as 25 percent from its nine-month low on Monday. Amazon also recovered.
“We are seeing increased online shopping and as a result some products such as household staples and medical supplies are out of stock,” Amazon said.
Yet small, independent stores are suffering, said U.K. Federation of Small Businesses chair Mike Cherry.
“These are already very difficult times for all small businesses right across the country. There are huge concerns over supply chains while on top of this footfall continues to drop. The prospect for these businesses over the coming weeks is increasingly bleak.”
Demand for movies to watch at home has soared so much that Netflix and YouTube are reducing the quality of their streaming in Europe — the new epicenter of the virus — to ease pressure on the internet.
Worldwide streaming activity jumped by 20 percent over the weekend of March 14 and 15, according to Bloomberg News.
Traditional cinema chains, however, are facing an unprecedented drop in demand.
Some have temporarily closed their doors to help contain the virus’s spread.
The airline sector has been hit hard by quarantine rules and border closures, with U.K. airline Flybe crashing into bankruptcy and experts predicting others to follow.
The International Air Transport Association said Thursday that up to $200 billion is needed to rescue the global industry.
U.S. airlines have sought more than $50 billion in government assistance in recent days, with one top U.S. official saying the outbreak poses a bigger threat to the industry than the 9/11 attacks.
In contrast, private jet charter companies are seeing demand soar.
Wealthy customers are seeking to distance themselves from the “unknown” travel histories of fellow passengers, said Daniel Tang, from Hong Kong-based charter firm MayJets.
U.S.-based Paramount Business Jets has seen inquiries go “through the roof,” CEO Richard Zaher said. Queries have risen 400 percent and bookings are up 20 to 25 percent.
As many gyms close their doors, fitness-lovers are turning to online classes and home workouts.
Shares in U.S. home gym equipment maker Peloton surged as investors bet on rising demand for its stationary bikes and memberships to online workout sessions.
With more and more people working from home to limit the virus’s spread, demand for technology that enables online group meetings, chats and collaborations has spiked.
“There is such excitement around remote work that brands like Zoom have seen their stock value climb up,” Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi said, referring to the teleconferencing app.
At the same time, real world gatherings from sporting events to business conferences, have been postponed or canceled, with a large question mark still lingering over the fate of this summer’s Olympic Games in Japan.