In early March we began reporting daily on how brands were dealing with COVID-19. But it’s become clear that the current climate is one of near-perpetual disruption, so we decided to keep on telling the stories of inspiring brand leadership and strategy amid the latest crises in an anxious world. Our goal is to provide an up-to-the-minute source of information, inspiration and insight on brand moves as they happen.
Earlier this year, Amazon-owned supermarket chain Whole Foods temporarily converted a few locations into online-only stores to keep up with higher grocery delivery demands brought about by COVID-19-related lockdowns. Its new location in Brooklyn isn’t a temporary store, though, but the first one built specifically to fulfill orders placed online. Customers can’t walk in to buy anything even though it has shelves of products laid out like a typical supermarket. Instead, team members will focus on receiving orders, shopping for customers and preparing items for delivery. Amazon opened the new location on September 1st to exclusively serve customers in the Brooklyn area. The company said that grocery delivery continues to be one of its fastest-growing businesses and that online grocery sales tripled year-over-year for the second quarter of 2020. “We’re thrilled to increase access to grocery delivery. It’s never been more important,” it said. While the new location could help Whole Foods fulfill the bigger demand for grocery delivery these days, Amazon actually started working on the project a year ago. Since people need access to online services now more than ever, it might not be the last permanent online-only store Amazon and Whole Foods open.
An uneven recovery is underway in China as the world’s biggest consumer market becomes one of the first nations to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic. In an effort to tackle this, the Ministry of Commerce will launch this year’s “consumption promotion month” from Sept. 9 with activities including food carnivals and e-shopping campaigns, to further unleash the pent-up demand and accelerate the recovery. Bloomberg analyzed June-quarter revenue for over two dozen market-leading companies across key consumer goods categories in China. Three pandemic-triggered trends emerged, driven mostly by pent-up desire to spend, focus on healthy lifestyles or wariness of public spaces.
Upmarket Rebound: Luxury goods makers saw double-digit revenue growth in the latest quarter compared to the same period last year, underscoring the strongest recovery trend. Inability to travel overseas has boosted businesses in the domestic tourism hotspots and duty-free shops. LVMH’s China sales last quarter rose 65% from a year ago while overall group revenue dropped 38%. The wine-to-watches luxury group has seen “a very good offset in China for the rest of the business, which is suffering,” Jean-Jacques Guiony, LVMH’s chief financial officer, said. Kering’s sales in mainland China jumped over 40% after a hit in the first quarter.
Eat Yourself Fitter: Companies promoting healthy living – dairy firms in particular – have been another big beneficiary as consumers strive to take better care of themselves. China Mengniu Dairy Co. reported 19% revenue growth for the June quarter and an 86% profit surge compared to last year. Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group saw a 23% rise in revenue and 72% surge in quarterly profit, rebounding from a profit slump in the March quarter. By-health Co., a Chinese protein powder and vitamin provider, launched a marketing campaign aimed at “strengthening immunity” and saw sales surge almost 17% in the second quarter after a drop of 5% in the March quarter.
Not Going Out: While people have begun leaving their homes again to work and shop, they are wary of dining out and socializing. Yum China Holdings Inc., operator of KFC and Pizza Hut eateries in the country, continued to see sales drop in the second quarter. Budweiser Brewing Co. APAC narrowed its sales decline in the second quarter, boosted by supermarkets and online sales, but the slow re-opening of night clubs and bars remains a drag.
San Francisco–based retailer Old Navy has announced that it will compensate all of its employees who serve as poll workers on US Election Day with a full day’s pay (regardless of whether they are scheduled to work that day). It’s a new policy that is meant to combat a nationwide shortage of poll workers. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission there is currently a shortage of more than 250,000 poll workers in the U.S., due to COVID-19 and other factors. As a result, there could be longer wait times to vote, as well as delays in counting the ballots. Old Navy is partnering with Civic Alliance and Power the Polls to hopefully bridge the gap and decrease some of the deficit of poll workers. It’s a powerful move, all things considered: Old Navy has 50,000-plus employees across more than 1,000 stores, which is a large pool of people who would not have to worry about losing pay in order to be a poll worker. And, according to a release from the retailer, 64% of Old Navy field employees are between 18 and 29 years old, which historically “is the segment of the population with the lowest voter turnout.” Other retailers have also introduced policies that allow workers proper time off to vote. Conglomerates such as Starbucks, Apple, and Walmart have dedicated time off for their workers to vote, while Uber and Twitter have given their employees the entire day.
Meanwhile, streetwear retailer KITH has closed its four flagship stores and turned them into voter registration hubs. Employees will be on hand to help visitors complete the process. The move was prompted by the police shooting of Jacob Blake, who is black, and KITH joins other streetwear brands (including Social Status and Bodega) in closing its US stores in protest. KITH aims to ensure more citizens will vote in the 2020 US presidential election than in 2016; the company said it considers voting “the most powerful act we can do collectively to implement change and overturn the injustices experienced too often in this country.”
Social media brand Reddit is also encouraging its users to get out and vote with its first brand marketing campaign. Drawing inspiration from how Reddit users engage with one another on its channels – by upvoting and downvoting – the social media company used content from its online pages to encourage real-life voting. The brand marketing campaign will include ads in print, online and out-of-home in New York, Houston, Chicago and Los Angeles through Election Day on November 3. The ad campaign, called “Up the Vote” is part of its wider initiative to encourage users to vote in their local, state, and national elections. Reddit users cast more than 165 million votes across the site every day. “While not originally planned as such, it feels fitting that our first ever marketing campaign is focused on something as intrinsic to Reddit as voting, while also serving a positive purpose for our larger, real world community,” Reddit VP of Marketing Roxy Young said.
Travel company Kuoni, badly hit by the pandemic, has created an online ‘Talent Finder’ to help staff leaving the business find new roles. The company is also supporting staff in other ways such as offering sabbaticals until June 2021 and consultations on CV writing and reskilling for jobs in other sectors. The tour operator began a staff consultation in June over potential redundancies as a result of the impact of COVID-19. Chief executive Derek Jones said: “This is a crisis unlike any other and whilst it seems counter-intuitive to be promoting our staff to other employers, it’s a commitment we’re making to support the exceptional individuals who are sadly leaving us. The travel industry has been severely impacted by COVID-19 so for a while we’re going to need fewer staff. We want to do all we can to support them and find our much-loved colleagues new roles, which is why we’ve created the Kuoni Talent Finder – to promote the skills and experience of these outstanding people who are now open to new opportunities.” He added: “I urge any business that’s in a position to recruit to take a look at their profiles and snap them up.”
Uber is solidifying guidelines it instituted in the spring, guaranteeing parents and caregivers more flexibility while working from home as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, forcing schools and daycares to remain closed. Uber’s new policy, called the Global Caregiver Enhanced Flexibility Policy, is meant to set official protections for employees managing family and work. The new policy will allow Uber employees to skip low-priority meetings as needed and modify their work hours throughout the week. Uber also said people who need to shift their workday, for example if they’re managing homeschooling for their children, will be able to do that too. “This allows us to set very clear expectations across not just our manager population but also our entire workforce that we recognize exactly how difficult the situation is for anyone with a caregiving responsibility, whether it’s children or any other responsibility,” said Bo Young Lee, Uber’s chief diversity and inclusion officer. Uber said a quarter of self-identified caregivers in the company who responded to an anonymous survey in the spring said they were struggling to manage their work and home lives.
As the coronavirus pandemic has halted flights around the world, a growing number of airlines are now selling in-flight meals to grounded customers. Thai Airways began advertising meal boxes in April, when the pandemic struck, selling anything from stir fried tiger prawn to beef cheek with cumin sauce. In Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific is selling meals to airport staff, while Indonesia’s national airline Garuda is offering its food as takeaway dinners on a tray. A fall in passenger demand and continued border closures across vast areas of the world have dealt a huge blow to the aviation industry and airline suppliers. Disease-prevention measures have meant that, even on the few flights that do still take off, eating is often forbidden. GNS Nuts, which supplies American Airlines and United, was left with about 50,000 pounds of nuts, when the airlines removed the product from their flights. The company is now selling its luxury mixed nuts online. Australia’s Qantas airline, meanwhile, accumulated an excess of business-class pyjamas, packets of Tim Tams, tea bags and hand cream, which it sold off in “care packs” costing AU$25.