The economy and life may be reshaped by the coronavirus pandemicMarch 22, 2020
“Tuesday was the most dreadful day for me. I was crying,” Alvarez said. “The next morning I created our concept.”
As the pandemic takes hold across America, some businesses are getting crushed, like Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., which closed its doors for at least eight weeks. Others are thriving, like Amazon, which announced 100,000 new hires to help manage the rush of online orders. Still others, like Tampa’s Rooster & the Till restaurant, are adapting — in ways that, economists say, might lead to long-term shifts in how Americans spend, work and live.
The pandemic has been a relentless destroyer of brick-and-mortar businesses as public health officials warn against in-person interactions. But the coronavirus is boosting almost anything that can be done online or with minimal human contact — grocery deliveries, online learning, takeout food, streaming video, even real estate closings done with online notaries.
The result, economists say, is likely to be dramatic losses in local retail and dining options, with millions of jobs disappearing as the biggest and wealthiest companies — especially those that do much of their business online — extend their gains. Telework, online education and streaming video have grown sharply, while movie theaters, schools and traditional workplaces close their doors. Some will never reopen in a world where the shift from real to virtual suddenly has gone into overdrive.
While some economists caution that these shifts may be temporary, others see long-term changes taking hold.
“People will change their habits, and some of these habits will stick,” said Susan Athey, an economics of technology professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business. “There’s a lot of things where people are just slowly shifting, and this will accelerate that.”
The impacts of the coronavirus are cutting across the nation’s more than $20 trillion economy, closing down sports leagues and art venues, canceling concerts and funerals, and shuttering bars, boutiques, restaurants and toy stores.
Even before the crisis, retailers last year announced a record 9,300 store closures amid widespread bankruptcy filings. As the growing pandemic forces companies like Apple, Nordstrom and Macy’s to close thousands of stores temporarily, analysts say they are bracing for a monumental shift: Deborah Weinswig, head of the retail analyst Coresight Research, said that more than 15,000 stores are likely to announce closures this year.