Coronavirus update for business: Trouble in tourism, an uptick in X-ray sales, and why we’re stockpiling toilet paper


No tourists and empty tables

There are ongoing concerns about the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on small businesses in the travel and tourism sectors, as Australia faces an “unprecedented” drop in the number of international visitors.

As the government mulls over a potential stimulus package, which is expected to focus on preserving jobs, small business ombudsman Kate Carnell has expressed concern that the virus could have a greater impact in some sectors than the bushfires did.

Those in the hospitality sector are also feeling the pinch. Robin Yu, the owner of Kingsfood, a Chinese restaurant in Brisbane’s Sunnybank suburb, has said turnover is down by 50%.

“February, we had the worst month in the 11 years I’ve been managing this business, it’s never happened before,” he told the ABC.

Cancel culture

Concerns about large meetings of people have caused Aussie unicorn Atlassian to suspend its annual developer conference in Las Vegas, which was set to kick off at the end of the month.

IBM has cancelled its IBM Think developer conference, also placing limits on work travel and banning employees from attending events with more than 1000 people.

The cancellations follow the news that the Salesforce World Tour Sydney event is going digital, and will now take place virtually via a livestream.

And it’s not only the tech conference scene that’s being disrupted.

The London Book Fair, which usually attracts some 25,000 people, has also been called off, along with other major European events, the Paris Book Fair and Leipzig Book Fair. The upset to the European publishing calendar could have significant knock-on effects for the industry.

And finally, the Morrison government has pulled the plug on its Festival of Australia business week in China — an event that has traditionally been used to help Aussie businesses crack the market.

An X-ray uptick

In Adelaide, x-ray manufacturer Micro-X has reportedly seen $1 million in sales over the past 20 days.

It brings the ASX-listed company’s sales to $1.8 million for the quarter, compared to $1.9 million in the whole of the 2019 financial year.

Chest x-rays can be a crucial part of diagnosing the severity of coronavirus in patients, and Micro-X managing director Peter Rowland says the company’s DRX Revolution Nano model offers flexibility in temporary hospitals and quarantined buildings.

“The number of countries now ordering the Nano also illustrates a growing awareness of the product and its capabilities, which has longer-term benefits for increasing adoption,” Rowland said.

Why the TP panic?

Yesterday, we spoke to Who Gives a Crap founder Simon Griffiths, who saw a 1000% increase in sales in one day, as fears about coronavirus caused Aussies to stockpile toilet paper.

While there have also been shortages of things such as hand sanitiser and batteries, people seem to be going particularly wild for TP. Why? According to these academics and experts, it could be that it represents control over hygiene and cleanliness, or that it’s non-perishable and guaranteed to be used eventually.

Or, the sheer bulk of the product could just mean we’re noticing the shelves are empty.

“Seeing a small product sold out at the supermarket (such as hand sanitiser) is not that unusual, and it’s only a small hole in the shelf that is often temporarily filled with nearby products,” says Alex Russell, a senior postdoctoral fellow at the school of health, medical and applied sciences at Central Queensland University.

“But if the toilet paper is gone, that’s a massive amount of shelf space that can’t readily be replaced with other things nearby.”

NOW READ: Coronavirus update for business: COSBOA’s government-support wishlist, Corona beer’s future and a panic-buying spike

NOW READ: “Demanding from us as much as we can supply”: Coronavirus fears drive export boom for Adelaide hand sanitiser manufacturer


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