Forbes:How A Retail Recovery Might Look Based On Lessons From Past Crises

I was living in Korea during MERS, and SARS, and had just left the country when Covid started to get serious attention and panic was starting to set in. 

I read an interesting article this week in Forbes, about the impact of disease outbreaks on the retail industry, which used the MERS outbreak in Korea as a reference point for recovery from COVI-19.

Although Korea has fared rather well so far in the Covid pandemic, its experience with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2015 it provides a good model for predicting a post pandemic recovery. South Korea experienced the largest outbreak of MERS outside of Saudi Arabia. During the outbreak in 2015, in Korea, we avoided crowds for fear of infection and shopping centres, theme parks, sports venues and subways, were noticeably less crowded and surgical masks were normal daily attire.

True to how I remember it, the article reports how ‘Store-based retailing in South Korea experienced a sharp decline in 2015, but grocers and off-price retailers were impacted the least by these behavioural shifts. A majority of the store-based formats most impacted by the outbreak saw sales return to pre-MERS levels by 2017’

‘Much like during COVID-19, e-commerce was a bright spot in the South Korean retailing industry during the MERS outbreak. Ordering goods online for delivery proved a safer option. In fact, e-commerce posted double-digital growth in 2015. Food and drink posted 30% sales growth in 2015, more than double the previous year, according to Euromonitor International. Buying groceries online was already becoming a regular habit, but fears of infection during the outbreak further propelled its growth, helping South Korea emerge as a posterchild for online grocery retailing globally’ the article continues.

You can read Michelle Evans’ full article here

Cover Photo by Arturo Rey on Unsplash

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