Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Potential Long-Term Impacts of COVID-19

It is interesting to think about the potential long-term impacts of COVID-19, including the opportunities and threats for businesses. Here is what comes to my mind in no particular order:
  • More people will continue to work at home rather than in the office. This means less commuting, which may continue downward pressure on gasoline prices. This may result in more purchases of SUVs and other gas guzzlers. It also means office spaces may downsize, opening up opportunities to convert some of those spaces to residential or mixed use spaces.
  • With more people working remotely, the choice of where to live will be less dependent on commuting concerns. People will not need to live within a reasonable driving distance of offices. 
  • COVID-19 (and presumably other potential pandemics) spread much more easily in densely populated urban centers. People in Manhattan and other densely populated cities may choose to move to small towns, the suburbs or smaller, less densely populated cities. This may slow down the urbanization of the US. The places that may mostly benefit from this are less densely populated cities with rich cultural elements and a high quality of life. Cities like Portland, ME, Rochester, NY and Ashville, NC come to mind.
  • More meetings will continue to be conducted online. Zoom and its competitors will be the beneficiaries of this. 
  • More market research may be conducted online, especially focus groups. 
  • Big data analytics, automated marketing and personalized offers will continue to increase in their usage.
  • Software jobs will continue to be in high demand. 
  • More restaurants will want to include an alfresco dining element to their dining experience. This may require zoning changes in some municipalities. 
  • Online learning has not proven to be a preferred alternative to the in-person college and university experience and it creates the opportunity for more cheating. Colleges and universities are likely to bounce back, but perhaps with an online teaching option for older professors who are more vulnerable to pandemics.
  • Companies offering effective UV sanitization solutions will do well. 
  • Use of public parks and open spaces for picnics and other activities may continue to see increased use. Municipalities should focus on maintaining these assets. 
  • Child care centers will need to substantially rethink how to maintain safe environments and reassure parents that those environments are safe to continue to grow and thrive. 
  • This will likely add pressure to adopt universal health care to protect the most vulnerable, including those laid off of jobs that included health care. Businesses might benefit from not having to offer health care to employees. 
  • Despite their discomfort and potential stigma, face masks may become more normal in the US the way they are in many Asian countries. People may be more apt to wear them when sick. 
  • Air filtration and circulation on cruise ships, airplanes, busses and subways will need to be improved. This provides a significant business opportunity. 
  • Federal, state, municipal and even personal debt may add a drag to the economy for a decade or two. 
  • The immigration restrictions put in place during COVID-19 may slow population growth and create more unfilled service and migrant worker jobs. 
  • The lifting of environmental restrictions during COVID-19 is likely to lead to more air and water pollution and accelerate global climate change leading to more severe weather, ecosystem breakdown, disease and refugee problems. This will have a significant negative impact on property insurance rates and the need for more National Guard and military spending.
  • Online purchasing is here to stay and more people will make purchases online, causing many brick and mortar retail businesses to fold and more shopping mall owners to rethink the mix of businesses in malls (more food and entertainment as a beginning). Online purchases will increase the use of packaging materials leading to the need for more landfills. It will also increase the use of delivery service companies. 
  • Home delivery of every kind will increase, including home delivery of groceries. 
  • Continued shifts in employment will lead to more minimum wage service jobs including shopping and delivery jobs. This may put pressure on the need to raise minimum wages. 
  • More people are likely to invest in their homes and properties making them more pleasant for future quarantines. This includes garden supplies, landscaping services, decks, patios, outdoor entertainment spaces, swimming pools, home entertainment centers, wine cellars, etc.
  • Gun sales will not abate and security system sales will increase. 
  • Staples and other home office supply centers will thrive.
  • Concert halls, theaters, airlines, travel companies and other related businesses may struggle for awhile. This will reduce the quality of life for those who can afford arts, culture and travel. 
  • Live concerts will take a hit. Independent music venues will have a difficult time surviving. And musical performing artists will find it more difficult to earn a living. 
  • Many churches have found that their attendance has increased with online church services. While congregants value personal interactions and the sense of community, more churches may offer an online version of their church services to extend their reach.
  • The problems in nursing homes will likely cause even more senior citizens to want to age at home, increasing opportunities for businesses adapting homes to aging needs, home health care and mobile medicine. 
  • Employment and job placement will be in flux. Many talented employees will have been laid off of struggling businesses and industries while other thriving businesses and industries will be looking for talent. 
  • Leadership will become more important as more crises arise. The leaders will need to be smart with high emotional intelligence, ethical values, empathy, vision and charisma. 
  • Excepting specific industries vulnerable to contagion (such as airlines, cruise ships, travel, etc.), COVID-19 has mostly accelerated the demise of struggling businesses, especially in the retail and restaurant sectors. 
  • To remain successful, businesses will have to become more adaptive, nimble, and opportunistic. Being able to pivot quickly is perhaps the most important component of long-term success in uncertain times. 


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