Coronavirus update for business: New tap-and-go limit, one-in-one-out at Woolies, Airbnb bailout and Uber for pharmacies

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Bouncers at the supermarket?

As the long Easter weekend approaches, supermarket giants Wooworths and Coles are making plans to impose limits on the number of people in their stores at any one time.

Limits will vary, depending on the size of the store, but shoppers at Woolworths will be expected to queue outside, at least 1.5 metres from each other, and to adhere to a ‘one-in-one-out’ policy.

“Traditionally, the Thursday in the lead up to Easter is one of our busiest times in-store,” Woolworths managing director Claire Peters said in a statement.

“We ask our customers to pre-plan their Easter shopping to avoid the usual Thursday spike in numbers.”

Coles has also asked shoppers to avoid crowding its stores on Thursday. However, in an announcement, it has only said it “may limit the number of customers in stores”, in order to maintain social distancing measures.

Airbnb bailout

Airbnb has raised a massive US$1 billion ($1.64 billion) in investment as the Silicon Valley giant struggles to stay afloat during the global COVID-19 crisis.

The funding comes from existing investors Silver Lake and Sixth Street Partners.

A statement from the startup said the resources will be used to invest in its hosts, and to best position itself to recover once the pandemic has passed. It also plans to focus specifically on long-term stays.

Airbnb is one of the startups hailed as being born during the hardship of the financial crisis. But as the COVID-19 pandemic has spread, travel has ground to a halt, leading to losses for the business, and for its hosts.

Co-founder and chief Brian Chesky has reportedly called the situation a “wake-up call”, and on March 30, announced a $250 million package to help hosts cover the costs of cancellations.

It’s not clear what kind of valuation this latest funding speaks to, but you’d be forgiven for assuming it’s a tad down on the last.

No touchy

Tap-and-go purchase limits have been extended to $200 in a bid to prevent customers from touching eftpos machines in retail stores across Australia.

The move, announced Tuesday by Mastercard, will enable customers to make the vast majority of their purchases without needing to enter a PIN — currently, 85% of payments over $100 are made using tap-and-go technology.

This will work for Apple Pay, Google Wallets and banking-based phone tap and go functions.

Uber for meds

ASX-listed prescription management app MedAdvisor has launched a new fast-tracked pharmacy delivery service, offering same-day access to critical medications, without the patient having to leave the house.

The ‘Uber-style’ service is up and running in Brisbane, and 750 pharmacists have already signed up.

MedAdvisor chief Robert Read said the new service was already on the cards.

Fast-tracking the launch “is necessary to provide access to critical medications to patients who are at home, relieve pressure on pharmacists, and protect patients from unnecessary exposure”, he said in a statement.

“Pharmacists are the critical connection between clinical care, medication and community engagement. By fast-tracking this delivery support, we hope to help ease some of the in-store traffic and stress for our pharmacist network.”

A gym class for later

A new not-for-profit platform is allowing consumers to support their favourite small businesses, by offering business owners a space to advertise and sell gift cards and vouchers for redemption when they can finally open their doors again.

Launched by two Adelaide-based fitness businesses, Save Local Business is intended to help small businesses survive to see the other side, offering a little cashflow to keep them going.

Currently, six Adelaide businesses in the fitness, hospitality and social media marketing space are listed, but businesses can register their interest now.

Look away now

Economists are beginning to weigh the likely economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns — and it’s not pretty.

Westpac published figures on Monday modelling Australian final output (GDP) will sink 8.5% in the June quarter and 0.6% in the September quarter. That’s a recession, folks.

Meanwhile, Commonwealth Bank economists have been looking at consumer spending patterns, finding recreation is down 26% year-on-year in March, while clothing and footwear spending has sunk a whopping 60%.

Even supermarkets are now feeling the pinch, the economists said. Food spending fell 12% on last week as panic-buying eases up.

NOW READ: ‘An act of business bastardry’: Big business keeps squeezing small suppliers on payments in face of COVID-19

NOW READ: Bunnings gets physical, plant-based meat to your door, and China’s VC ecosystem bounces back


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