Published on: March 3, 2020
The Los Angeles Times reports that the COVID-19 coronavirus "has killed more than 3,000 people, more than 2,800 of whom have been in China’s Hubei province. On Monday, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus rose to six." There are said to be close to 90,000 coronavirus cases around the world, as public health experts warn that it is on the verge of turning into a pandemic.
New Hope Network announced last night that it will postpone the Natural Products Expo West 2020, originally scheduled to take place in Anaheim, California, later this week, because of concerns related to the global COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak that threatens to become a pandemic.
Facing a hemorrhaging list of attendees, with a wide range of retailers (from Amazon to Wegmans) and suppliers (from Applegate to Unilever) reportedly cancelling their plans to attend the giant food show, New Hope said that this week's event "is officially postponed, with the intention to announce, by mid-April, a new date."
New Hope said that "it is our intention to work with all our Exhibitors and Attendees on future credits and support, with particular focus on the many entrepreneurs and small businesses who are the heartbeat of this community, for whom we are going to stand up a rebate fund of $5m targeted at their specific needs.
"It is our intention to deliver a Natural Products Expo West event before the summer to serve the community, either in Anaheim or a suitable alternative location. We are already working on how we deliver a much-enhanced Expo East in September in Philadelphia, serving and supporting the community with the best show we have ever had on the East Coast."
The coronavirus impact is being felt throughout the industry. Some of the relevant media reports:
• The Wall Street Journal reports that "supermarkets and other retailers are preparing for a surge in demand and shoppers are stocking up on staple foods and cleaning supplies as more cases of the new coronavirus appear in the US … Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. said it has seen greater demand for products including face masks and hand sanitizers at many stores and online. Home Depot Inc. said it had halted online orders for face masks and was limiting purchases at its stores to 10 per customer."
• Also from the Journal: "Raley’s Supermarkets, which operates about 120 stores in Northern California, said it is working to increase the availability of hand sanitizer, tissue, disinfectants and other cleaning and hygiene products. The chain said it is in discussions with suppliers to ensure the availability of these products. A spokeswoman said Raley’s hasn’t experienced shortages of any foods it sells.
"Another California chain, Smart & Final Stores Inc., said it is taking directions on how to respond to the epidemic from the CDC and trade groups. Meijer Inc., a Midwestern chain of more than 200 stores, said it is focused on maintaining stock in sanitizers and antibacterial wipes. Discount grocer Save A Lot said it is working with suppliers to prevent potential disruptions to its supply chain."
• From the Seattle Times:
"E-commerce delivery, which has grown rapidly in the past two decades, could take on an even bigger role with a population that appears increasingly uneasy about going out in public.
"While many physical retailers were jammed and running out of items including toilet paper, medicines, water and bananas, other shoppers sought to avoid the stores altogether, relying instead on services such as Amazon and Instacart. As the outbreak worsens, more people may turn to e-commerce, analysts and survey data suggest … More than 27% of 1,121 U.S. internet users surveyed by Coresight Research in late February said they were already avoiding public places such as shopping centers and entertainment venues, while 58% said at the time they would do so if the outbreak worsened."
• Bloomberg reports that "Prime Now and Amazon Fresh delivery services have been overwhelmed by demand, a sign that virus-spooked shoppers are turning to the world’s largest online retailer to avoid going to brick-and-mortar stores … Amazon on Monday warned customers that both services would have limited availability, meaning orders are being delivered more slowly than usual. The company hasn’t reduced the number of people or trucks dedicated to either service, but it has seen a surge in demand that’s straining its delivery capacity, according to a person familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly about the issue."
• CNN reports that "Amazon says it has pulled more than 1 million products for price gouging or falsely advertising effectiveness against the coronavirus … The removal comes after Wired found sellers gouging the prices of coronavirus-related products, like face masks, or charging people 'exorbitant shipping costs,' according to the magazine. In one instance, the publication found a seller with face masks for as much as five times their normal price."
"We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to artificially raise prices on basic need products during a global health crisis and, in line with our long-standing policy, have recently blocked or removed tens of thousands of offers," an Amazon spokesperson tells CNN. "We continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies."
• Reuters reports that Ocado, the British pure-play e-grocer, is telling shoppers "to place orders further in advance because of 'exceptionally high demand.' indicating a possible reaction from shoppers to the spreading coronavirus outbreak … The company advised customers to place orders further in advance than they might normally; ideally, two or three days before. It also asked customers to book weekday delivery (Monday to Thursday) rather than weekends if they are able to be flexible."
The story says that "Britain announced a jump in coronavirus cases on Sunday, with 13 new infections taking the total to 36 and Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning that the number is likely to rise."
• The International Housewares Association (IHA) yesterday cancelled its annual Inspired Home show in Chicago, which was scheduled to take place March 14-17.
"In the end, the global nature of our event, combined with the worldwide concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak and ongoing travel restrictions make it impossible for us to hold The Inspired Home Show next week," said Derek Miller, president of the IHA.
The Chicago Sun Times writes that "it is the first event to be axed at McCormick Place due to the spread of the virus. With about 56,000 attendees, the show was expected to draw participants from 130 countries. A McCormick Place spokeswoman said the show accounted for more than 47,000 room nights at Chicago hotels."
The show is not being rescheduled this year. The next one is slated to take place March 13-16, 2021 at McCormick Place in Chicago.
• It isn't just retailing, of course. The Journal notes that there are "few businesses … at greater risk of being impacted than sports … This is a multibillion-dollar industry built on live entertainment, easy travel and mass gatherings, and that makes it especially vulnerable if major cities begin to embrace social distancing, as they have in countries where the virus has already disrupted everyday life."
Among the events that may be affected: "The NCAA tournament. Major League Baseball opening day. The Masters golf tournament. The NFL draft, the NBA and NHL playoffs, the Boston Marathon and Olympic qualifiers all over the U.S."