Coronavirus update for business: Coles scraps online shopping, ASX woes, Apple closes its doors, stimulus 2.0?


Stimulus 2.0?

Last week, the government announced its $17.6 billion coronavirus stimulus package, including promises of support for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, and that the measures could be extended, if required.

It seems that extension might be on the cards sooner rather than later.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is reportedly planning to take a new ‘economic rescue package’ to parliament next week, focusing on sectors that have been particularly badly affected by the outbreak.

That will likely include additional support for the travel and tourism sector, hospitality, and the already beleaguered bricks-and-mortar retail sector.

Supermarket giants

Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths are implementing new measures on an almost daily basis as they scrabble to manage the wild new shopping habits of Aussies all over the country.

Yesterday, Coles followed suit in implementing a dedicated shopping hour for senior and disability cardholders. Today, it’s announced it’s suspending its online shopping service, except for customers “in genuine need, especially the most vulnerable and those isolated”.

The move is intended to redirect resources (that is, delivery vans), to help people who can’t get out of the house easily — be it due to quarantine or health.

It has also suspended its UberEats delivery service, to improve the availability of items in stores.

Both Coles and Woolworths have also temporarily changed their opening hours, closing early to give employees time to restock the shelves.

And, Coles has also announced it will hire about 5,000 additional casual workers, to help manage the increased customer demand.

Trouble on the ASX

Yesterday saw the Australian Stock Exchange suffer its steepest one-day drop in more than 30 years, losing about $165 billion in value.

While the market has recovered slightly this morning, it’s indicative of the economic volatility caused by the spread of the coronavirus. The Reserve Bank of Australia has said it “stands ready” to purchase government bonds to get money flowing through the system, and is widely expected to cut the cash rate again.

In the ASX bloodbath yesterday, travel companies were predictably hit hard, as well as the big four banks.

In fact, according to the ABC, just three stocks out of the top 200 saw gains throughout the day — Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, Telstra and Domino’s Pizza (+0.2pc). Make of that what you will.

Closed stores

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, tech giant Apple has announced it will be closing all of its stores outside of China, until at least March 27.

In a statement, the company said it will be running its online stores and support services as normal and will continue to pay its staff members as usual.

It becomes one of many global names closing its doors as the virus spreads. Nike is closing all of its stores in selected countries, including Australia, and Abercrombie & Fitch has also closed its stores until March 28.

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