More than 130 e-commerce business owners have joined an exclusive virtual ‘war room’ to support each other through the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The war room was established by Adore Beauty founder and executive director Kate Morris and operates via communications platform Slack.
Morris put out a call to arms on Twitter on Friday, inviting online retailers to join forces to plan for COVID-19.
I’ve set up a war room for ecommerce leaders on Slack for COVID-19 planning, let me know if you need an invite.
— Kate Morris (@morris_kate) March 12, 2020
The group is for e-commerce business owners only, not consultants or advisors, and Morris says the group includes pure-play operators, as well as businesses with both physical and online stores and wholesalers too.
“Business owners are facing unprecedented challenges at the moment,” she says.
“To me, it feels like we’re very much off the map in terms of knowing what to do next. And in that case, the best thing to do is stick together (in a socially distanced way), share knowledge, and support each other.
“Online retailers face many of the same challenges. How do we keep our warehouses open? How do we best protect our staff? How do we forecast what sales might be four weeks from now when everything is so uncertain?”
Morris founded Adore Beauty 20 years ago, and in the time since, has grown it from a small business operating out of her garage to a multimillion-dollar beauty retailer.
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, she says the Adore Beauty team are working on a number of fronts.
“We are focused firstly on protecting the health of our team, and secondly on protecting jobs and ensuring the business’ survival,” she says.
“On the health front, we are implementing the hygiene and social distancing recommendations of the Victorian Department of Health.
“We did a trial yesterday of the entire office working from home, so we’re reviewing that this morning.
“On the business front, fortunately, our sales are very strong at the moment, however, I think all businesses should be conserving their cash, monitoring cashflow daily, and minimising their fixed costs where possible.”
Like many other Australian business owners, Morris doesn’t hold back in her assessment of the stimulus measures the federal government says will help businesses stay afloat.
She believes the measures announced to date are “nowhere near enough”.
“I saw just this morning on Instagram that one of my favourite dress rental stores has already had to lay off staff as their sales have gone to zero overnight,” she says.
“They’re struggling to survive.
“My brother owns three restaurants in Perth and they’re going to struggle too.”
The government needs to act swifty, says Morris, suggesting one option would be to follow the lead of the French government and temporarily waive all rent and utility bills.
“That would be a big help,” she says.
“Many, many businesses will hit the wall and many jobs will be lost if the government does not quickly step in.”