Eshan Gupta

Eshan Gupta is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service, majoring in Science, Technology & International Affairs with a minor in Economics. He is originally from San Jose, California and as a result of COVID-19, he has been under shelter in place orders in Santa Clara county for two months, living at home with his family.

About the Collection

As a student interested in the intersection between international affairs and economics, I am documenting how various firms have responded to COVID-19. Restaurants, stores, gyms, and schools have all been adversely impacted and have not been able to transition to "work from home" as other firms have been able to do. I am documenting the various strategic operational decisions firms have made to maintain their consumer base and ensure revenue through uncertain times. Additionally, I examine the role of service providers such as mortgage companies, auto loan lenders, and car insurance companies that have scaled back payment requirements to account for wage losses for consumers. In this archive you will see a mixture of statements, news articles, and advertisements. Notably you will see several free home delivery promotions to promote restaurant usage, no contact delivery announcements, analyses of various services such as mortgage and car loans, and statistics surrounding the demands of various consumer goods. It is fascinating to see the firm level decision making taround COVID-19 and what creative marketing and operational tactics various companies have used to stay afloat, and remain socially responsible, during these trying times.

 
 

Archival Guide: How Private Firms Are Responding to COVID-19

My analysis accompanying my archive focuses on how various firms have chosen to respond to COVID-19 in order to maximize their profits while also being socially responsible. My collection is broken down into three key categories: consumer goods retail businesses , third party delivery providers, and other service providers. In my guide, I will analyze each section and provide examples that depict how these firms have responded to the coronavirus pandemic.

Browse Collections

 

Consumer Goods Retail Businesses

These are firms that directly provide goods to consumers- think restaurants and retail stores. On a very broad level, this category of services have been hardest hit. As large retail stores have been shut down and restaurants have been closed for the dine-in option, more and more of these goods-providing firms are operating in the red. As a result, many of these firms have taken various approaches in regards to providing various discounts to boost their sales. On the other hand, there are several goods that have seen significant spikes in demand as a result of Coronavirus. Understanding how these goods have spiked in demand is also important.

Analysis: Olive Garden, Panda Express, and Chipotle have all implemented large amounts of discounts specifically on large quantities of foods in an attempt to incentivize people to come purchase their food. Knowing that individuals will not risk leaving their homes for solely the meal of one person, they have created family plans of food at heavy discounts in an attempt to attract consumers in this time.

Analysis: It would be naive to think that all goods providers are suffering. As outlined by Yahoo Finance, there are several categories of goods that have seen significant spikes in demand as a result of lockdown orders. Items such as aerosol disinfectants, hand sanitizers, rubbing alcohol, and thermometers are all on the significant increase of demand side with increase in demand ranging from 275-500% increases in demand. However beyond the obvious goods, there are other goods that have seen increases in demand that may not be as obvious. For example, bananas, apples, and popcorn have all seen demand increases of 20-90% because individuals are choosing to eat healthier at home and are also opting to watch movies at home rather than go to the theater. These demand shifts, both the obvious in regards to sanitation, and the not so obvious in regards to fruit and popcorn, are all indicative of demand shifts that have occurred in the consumer goods area as a result of coronavirus.

Stephanie Crets, "How the Coronavirus is Affecting Online Retailers," DigitalCommerce360.com, March 12, 2020.

 

Third Party Delivery Services

This category of firms are the ones that deliver the food and the goods that are talked about in the first section. This includes grocery delivery services like Instacart and restaurant food delivery services like Postmates and Grubhub. This category of firms should actually theoretically be doing better as a result of coronavirus; as more individuals are forced to stay at home, delivery services such as these should be used more. The jury is still out as to whether we are seeing increases in revenue for these firms as it has only been a few months. Regardless, these providers are still offering significant discounts in an attempt to attract customers.  These thirdrd party delivery services are the key support to the primary goods providers right now. The only way for many restaurants to survive under current shelter in place orders is by delivering the food to consumers. By facilitating this, the thirrd party delivery services are expanding their revenue while also helping restaurants and grocery stores out. The impact of these services on workers is ambiguous, however. We have seen allegations of unsafe working conditions for several of these companies including Instacart and Amazon. Although these services are beneficial for the restaurants and grocery stores themselves, there are unseen negative impacts on the workers that they employ.

Email sent by Grubhub.com on "COVID-19 impact, delivery safety and supporting local restaurants," March 15, 2020

Instacart, which delivers groceries, has made all grocery delivery free in an attempt to attract consumers in a highly saturated market. Grubhub and Postmates, both food delivery services, have also slashed all delivery fees in order to incentivize people to use their delivery services while also staying at home. 

 

Services

 

Service providers- think mortgage lenders, auto loan lenders, car insurance companies, education services, and banks- have been hard hit. Many firms are not receiving money on many of their loans services right now as more and more people are unemployed. Understanding that it would be neither socially nor fiscally responsible to still require payments of loans during this time, many services including banks, lenders, insurance companies, and education companies, have mitigated all penalty costs associated with not being able to pay loans. Evictions and repossessions of cars, for example, are less tenable for the foreseeable future as these firms attempt to be lenient to individuals who have been laid off.

"Coronavirus auto loan payment and debt relief: What some auto lenders are doing to help," CreditKarma.com, April 24, 2020

Analysis: Auto lending companies that have provided loans to car owners are not expecting payments for 30-60 days as long as certain conditions are met in order to not sideline prospective car purchasers and in order to not repossess cars unfairly.

Amanda Dixon, "List of banks offering to help customers impacted by the coronavirus," Advertisement on Bankrate.com, April 20, 2020

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "Guide to coronavirus mortgage relief options," April 24, 2020

Analysis: Under the CARES Act passed by the federal government, banks cannot foreclose your house for 60 days if you are not able to make payments. Many people are now not employed in the first place and taking away homes would not be socially responsible.

Andrew Keshner, "State Farm and other car insurance companies are giving refunds due to coronavirus- how you can get yours," MarketWatch.com, April 25, 2020

Analysis: Car insurance companies that typically require payments to protect the driver in case of an accident have now opted to not require car insurance payments. As individuals are no longer commuting to and from work under shelter in place orders, cars are not used at a rate that they once were used at and therefore the need for car insurance has gone down. Because this is an extraneous and difficult expense for many, firms like AllState and GEICO have reduced or waived costs associated with car insurance.

"Updated: Free Resources for Schools During COVID-19 Outbreak," THE Journal, April 24, 2020

Analysis: As this article in the first magazine dedicated to covering the educational technology sector suggests, ,any education services are opening up their services for free to ensure that younger students who are no longer in school are still getting some sort of academic enrichment, and individuals who are not able to take college classes still have access to some sort of free education through online college courses. This ensures that individuals still have the ability to have academic opportunities even if their school districts or colleges have shut down.

Unlike the first two categories of firms that have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by maintaining current operations and providing discounts to remain profitable through this time, many service providers have opted to cut their losses and, sometimes compelled by the law, are taking a more socially responsible route. Rather than attempting to maintain their bottom line or make lives more difficult through required loan payments, firms have opted to waive loan and insurance payments to help consumers and ensure that money is not a concern for individuals during this massive health crisis.

Conclusion

Various categories of firms have chosen to respond to the coronavirus pandemic in different ways. Unlike the first two categories of firms that have chosen to maximize profits and maintain regular operations, the third category of firms, service providers, seem to have  chosen to cut their losses and help the average consumer. There is further research to be done into the response of various types of firms to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this broad survey  is a starting point to understand the economic consequences and actions of the private sector during this public health crisis.

 

© 2020 Dr. Ananya Chakravarti

Thanks to Rajeev Kozhikattuthodi, Eshan Gupta, and Jaron Berman for their help in building this website.

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