Throughout my career in communications, I have had the chance to write about some of the world’s most respected retail organizations, including many brands that I find myself admiring for an entirely new reason: their extraordinary efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the lockdown continues throughout much of the world, that hasn’t stopped the best and brightest across the retail sector from having a positive impact in their communities and in the global fight against the coronavirus. From financial donations to producing masks and gloves, the retail industry is rolling up its sleeves to support medical research, hospitals, government agencies and the thousands of heroes – doctors, nurses, volunteers and essential workers – who are working around the clock to save lives.
Asian Retailers and Brands Stand Strong Against COVID-19
Asia, the first part of the world affected by the crisis, was also the first region in which we saw retailers and brands take a stand against the virus. At the start of the Lunar New Year holiday, online retailer JD.com pledged 1 million medical masks and 60,000 medical supplies to the city of Wuhan, China, where the virus is believed to have emerged.
Japanase fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo and its parent company Fast Retailing also announced its request to its manufacturers to make 10 million surgical masks to be delivered to front line workers worldwide.
European Fashion Companies Give Back in a Big Way
Moncler donated 10 million euros to support the Fiera Hospital project in Milan and luxury brand Tod’s pledged to donate 5 million euros to help the families of health personnel who die from COVID-19. Chanel has committed to producing masks, and similarly, Burberry has swapped its trench coat production for manufacturing hospital gowns and masks. Swedish-owned H&M is reorganizing its supply chain to deliver personal protective equipment for health care workers, and as of March 26, the Armani Group converted production in its four Italian factories to manufacture medical overalls.
Paris-based luxury group Kering and fellow fashion giant LVMH, including all of their brands, also stepped up. These organizations initially supported the Red Cross in China, and followed with donations to French and Italian hospitals and institutions. Additionally, both organizations took action to convert their sites to support the production of hand sanitizers (LVMH’s Dior and Bvlgari) and masks (Kering’s Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Gucci). In total, the two retail conglomerates have committed to providing around 40 million surgical masks to France to ease hospital shortages.
Finding Creativity, Solidarity during a Crisis
Interestingly, many brands are also promoting activities to entertain or engage their communities during their #stayathome time. Mulberry, for example, is involving a series of artists to host “live gigs and live-in-conversation moments” online. Alexander McQueen has launched a program called “McQueen Creators” where participants are encouraged to sketch McQueen dresses.
An impressive profusion of resources and positivity, right? While the pandemic will have a strong effect on the economy and on the way we behave as consumers, not only is the retail sector trying to do its part, but it is also showing a level of dedication, creativity and resilience that will help them cope with the outbreak as well as gain increased brand affinity with their customers and shape a new era of retailing – one that is poised to be even more ethical and authentic.
“It’s too early to evaluate the long-term economic impact [of the outbreak], which will surely be significant,” Giorgio Armani recently told Forbes. “But history teaches us that new opportunities are born from the deepest moments of crisis.”
Want more retail inspiration? Stay tuned for a future blog post where we’ll shine a spotlight on retail companies in North America and Latin America that have made a meaningful difference in the fight against coronavirus.