What food retailers should do during the coronavirus crisis
The food-retail industry plays a critical role in these uncertain times. Here are six actions food retailers should take to help their communities, their employees, and their business. As of this writing (March 19, 2020), the epidemiological numbers of COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus, are becoming outdated by the hour. While events are rapidly evolving, a […]

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Hussein Hallak

What food retailers should do during the coronavirus crisis

The food-retail industry plays a critical role in these uncertain times. Here are six actions food retailers should take to help their communities, their employees, and their business.

As of this writing (March 19, 2020), the epidemiological numbers of COVID-19, caused by the coronavirus, are becoming outdated by the hour. While events are rapidly evolving, a few things are becoming clear:

  • The disease is less fatal than SARS, but the transmission rate is one and a half to two times higher than the flu’s, with various factors driving the ultimate local fatality rates.
  • The virus is located in five major transmission complexes that are in different stages of maturity—with “community spread” getting worse in several of them.
  • The impact is very different for every retailer, depending on country, category, and customer mix.

According to McKinsey’s March 16 briefing note, two scenarios are most likely: a delayed recovery or a prolonged contraction. Regardless of which scenario plays out, food retailers will need to think ahead and be prepared to act quickly. We are continuously updating our views and keeping a close eye on what retailers are doing, and we plan to share our insights regularly. Clearly, the top priority is saving lives; managing the business is a distant second.

This article recommends six actions that food retailers can take to continue doing what they do best—serve as reliable sources of food and essential items for people across communities worldwide—while also staying calm and executing rigorously in these uncertain times. The first four actions are urgent; the last two are more focused on the long term and thus will likely require the attention of a distinct set of leaders with a different mandate to ensure sufficient focus.



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