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Business as Unusual

Paradigm Shift: “a time when the usual and accepted way of doing or thinking about something changes completely.”

History has shown how transformative a crisis can truly be.

 

The 1918 influenza pandemic. The Great Depression. World War II. The September 11 attacks. These events burnt down cities, toppled great empires, and injured our global economy. Today, school textbooks dedicate entire chapters to how these events led to momentous social, political, and economic upheaval, and forever changed the course of humanity.

 

Sadly, due to the coronavirus pandemic, our current lived reality is no different. 

 

But in the midst of sinking ships, a surprising number of business owners have stepped up to the plate, bubbling with pockets of innovation that have surfaced in response to the crisis. Even though the scars from our battle with the COVID-19 outbreak are still raw, the ensuing paradigm shift is already in its kindergarten stages.

History has shown how transformative a crisis can truly be.

 

The 1918 influenza pandemic. The Great Depression. World War II. The September 11 attacks. These events burnt down cities, toppled great empires, and injured our global economy. Today, school textbooks dedicate entire chapters to how these events led to momentous social, political, and economic upheaval, and forever changed the course of humanity.

 

Sadly, due to the coronavirus pandemic, our current lived reality is no different. 

 

But in the midst of sinking ships, a surprising number of business owners have stepped up to the plate, bubbling with pockets of innovation that have surfaced in response to the crisis. Even though the scars from our battle with the COVID-19 outbreak are still raw, the ensuing paradigm shift is already in its kindergarten stages.

A Shift in Pre-Pandemic Paradigms

Retail as we know it might never be the same again. In order to keep afloat, companies must race to adapt their products and services to the changes that the coronavirus pandemic has brought. They have to dig deep within themselves to know and understand changed customer behavior, and take that into account as they shift their paradigm and reprogram their operations. 

 

In this regard, some people have had more notable success than others. Here are the stories of what their new normal looks like.

Disruption Responses

In the U.S., Mr. Holmes Bakehouse used to supply baked goods for over 60 coffee shops in California. In the span of 72 hours, owner Aaron Caddel lost $3 million worth of wholesale customers. But after seeing the growing interest in home baking due to quarantine, he made a brilliant pivot: reopening as an e-Commerce business. Today, the bakery is selling bread-making kits to the millions of trapped and bored people turning to baking to pass the time. 

 

Meanwhile, in London, Ombra went from being a Venetian restaurant by the canal to a pasta production house of sorts. Their new business model included takeaway pasta (made from scratch in their kitchen) as well as a few simple sauces for people to assemble themselves, cold cuts, and cheese accompaniments. “We’re basically trying to recreate the Ombra experience at home,” says head chef and director Mitshel Ibrahim.

H/T: Kento Awashima, Nikkei Asian Review

Asia’s largest retailer, Uniqlo, refused to belong to the slew of stores that have filed for bankruptcy since the pandemic started. In a show of brilliance and with a firm understanding of their target market, Uniqlo is now selling reusable face masks in their Japan outlets. The masks, which use the brand’s breathable AIRism fabric, have a bacterial filtration efficiency of 99% even after 20 washes. Their attempt at branching out was so successful that their website crashed on the day they launched their new product. Outside of their physical stores, long lines of expectant shoppers eagerly awaited the arrival of the hottest pandemic-chic fashion item.

 

Still, pivoting doesn’t have to be a financial opportunity. Sometimes, it can be a good marketing strategy. 

 

Across the globe, stocks of isopropyl alcohol have plummeted and the sale price for the chemical has gone through the roof. Luxury goods manufacturer LVMH saw that they were in a position to make the products themselves, and converted their perfume manufacturing facilities to make hand sanitizers. In the same laboratories where they are normally creating Dior, Givenchy, and Guerlain perfumes, they are now speeding to produce 12 tons of hydroalcoholic gel to be distributed for free to French authorities and European healthcare systems. 

 

Not only are LVMH doing a public service, they are also justifying keeping their factories running and providing jobs for their existing employees. This move pardons the brand from the typically superficial behavior we’ve come to expect from luxury manufacturers, and makes their company more reputable in the eye of the casual consumer.

Agility equals Relevance

Paradigm shifts come along maybe once in a generation. And here we are, witnessing one happen right before our very eyes. 

 

It’s impossible to figure out what the future will hold, especially for businesses who are responsible for the livelihoods of their employees. It’s difficult enough to be accountable for our own selves in this age of uncertainty—imagine what it must be like to hold the fates of others in your hands.

 

“Business as usual” no longer applies to our current circumstances, and the legacy of the coronavirus pandemic will inadvertently include the legions of business owners who have had to radically alter their business models in order to keep their employees working. 

 

As the retail dynamics post-pandemic continue to evolve, businesses like LVMH and Ombra are showing us that the keys to surviving the coronavirus era are massive doses of creativity and a resilient entrepreneurial spirit.

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