When COVID-19 transmission started to spread from country to country, from the big cities to the small country towns and from household to household, with it came a big question mark over the economy for the rest of 2020. The economy took an immediate hit in March, with thousands of people furloughed and let go from their jobs permanently. 

It’s complicated when looking at the effect localised and national lockdowns have had on small and large business’. Some have thrived while others have fallen, with many unsure about the future for their company and others about their employment. However, a small few have either been lucky such as toilet roll companies and the pharmaceutical industry, while others have used the pandemic to their advantage, whether it be making face masks from home or tradesmen substituting fitting windows with fitting perspex screens in retail stores. 

When the majority of normal life and day to day activities were moved to the home back in March, people found themselves living a new reality. Streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Video, Spotify and Apple Music all seen an increase in memberships and downloads. Millions of students across the world were sent home from school, while others who were furloughed or even working from home had a lot more spare time. This also lead to an increase in home renovations and many attending to much needed DIY around their homes, that would have got the ‘I’ll do it when i have time’ remark. The majority of hardware stores stayed open throughout lockdowns and saw an increase in sales in things such as paint, wood, toolkits and fixtures and fittings. People now working from home wanted a pleasant experience, splashing out to make their new home office as comfortable as possible, noticing now more than ever what they did or didn’t like about their surroundings at home. 

Ikea’s ‘stay at home’ catalogue cover

Online shopping retailers such as ASOS seen a rise in sales since the start of the year, with their profits having quadrupled. Others such as Next seen their website crash multiple times, due to such a high volume of customers shopping at the same time. E-Commerce sales doubled for Amazon. Hundreds of thousands of items were being shipped daily all across the world, even leading to Amazon falling behind on their next day delivery promise for paying prime members. Despite Amazons success during the pandemic, seller experience worsened as they were still being charged the monthly fee to sell but not all items were being accepted into warehouses.  

Many global brands also used COVID-19 to their advantage in their marketing and advertising. Brands such as Uber, Dominoes, Guiness and Burger King all produced ‘COVID themed adds’ entered around quarantining and social distancing. Apple created a reassuring add, encouraging and reminding people they can still be creative through the pandemic. You can watch the moving add here, https://youtu.be/Kl1NW7h7lrY

When we look at the economic effect COVID-19 has had locally, it has been damaging to many peoples livelihoods. Pubs and Restaurants were closed for nearly 4 months many not able to accommodate take-away. Small independent retail shops were left with no source of income, with just a small grant from the Government. The UK launched a ‘Eat out to Help out’ scheme, in which customers got 50% off food Monday- Wednesday in participating restaurants. Many restaurants and cafes reported being busier than they had been in years, with tables booked up from opening to closing. The Government however then making a U-turn in Northern Ireland in October, deciding to move all food and drink back to take away only. There was a also a big push across local communities and online, showing the importance of shopping local. Many consumers opted for shopping at their local fruit shop or butchers instead of the large supermarkets. 

Quarantine also give people the time to put the extra bit of time and effort into that business idea that they have had or turn their hobby into one. Home- bakers started to sell and ship goodies nationwide and people started clearing out closets to sell clothes and bits and bobs on depop. Business ideas were perfected, and it also give people time to put effort and concentration to their online marketing and learn more about social media and how to use it to their advantage. 

As mentioned before, those able to use a sewing machine were able to make masks by the dozen and advertise, sell and ship all from their home. Local gin distillers, used the opportunity to produce hand sanitiser in the masses, to accommodate neighbouring business’.

Despite the economy taking an overall hit due to this pandemic, it is reassuring to know that there are local people out there who have used this time to better their ideas, their business’ and their lives, all while hopefully making that bit of extra cash! 

Aileen Gallagher is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at LinkedIn and Twitter

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