Isolation’s Impact on Online Shopping

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In what seems like an instant, everyone was shuttered in for self-isolation as all nonessential stores closed their doors for the indefinite future to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Social distancing and working from home have left many seeking out activities to occupy this newfound time. The internet has served as a much-welcomed distraction from boredom, and that includes the dangerous territory of online shopping. Not only does scrolling endlessly through your favorite brand’s sale section satisfy shopping needs, but it can also be a means of supporting small businesses. However, there is certainly widespread fear and change in the world of online retail. 

So, what does it mean for those of us at home looking to take advantage of the extra 20% off sweaters? Every day since the nation’s lockdown, it seems like our inboxes have been flooded with new sale markdowns across all brands. This isn’t just brands trying to get us when we’re in our pajamas on the couch, but instead, a signal to customers that these companies need our business — it’s almost like an SOS. Retailers are in crisis mode, too. They have much more inventory than they would normally at this time, so major brands are trying to move that inventory out of their warehouses before the quarantine ends. 

With brick-and-mortar stores closed, retailers’ online presence is the only source of revenue they have to pay their employees and keep their business afloat. New items are selling at a marked-down price as soon as they hit a store’s website and companies are sending their products back to designers, as they refuse to accept new stock. There have been interesting fluctuations in retailers’ consumer business as some see increases in their e-commerce division, while others suspect the fear of the virus’s transference to be the reason for curbed sales. Both big companies and small businesses are coping with suspended production, fulfilling orders and closing stores as they try to keep their employees and business safe. 

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The fashion world is changing — workers who distribute and mail products are taking extra precautions to keep themselves safe, as well. On almost all retailers’ websites, there is a notice informing customers that due to the coronavirus, traditional shipping methods have changed and therefore, customers should expect delays. Amazon was one of the first major retailers to shift its logistics and shipping methods in the time of the coronavirus. Due to the increased number of people at home, online shopping has significantly increased, causing a logistics backlog at Amazon. In an official statement, a spokeswoman said that the company is focusing on delivering essential items, such as medical supplies, and that they were “selectively bringing more products” into fulfillment centers. 

So, what’s happening to your packages from the moment you click ‘Buy’ to when they shows up at your front door? There are many factors to consider when shipping, delivering and handling your online order. Are you putting mail carriers at risk? Will your package have remnants of the virus? Is it generally safe to order things online? An important factor to consider is how postal workers and brands’ employees are impacted by the packaging and processing of increased online purchases in these uncertain times. Many warehouses and fulfillment centers have added enhanced safety measures and limited employees in order to abide by state health department and CDC guidelines. Delivery services like UPS, USPS and FedEx have released statements saying they are aptly protecting and preparing their workers with safety resources. 

According to the CDC, there is a “very low risk” of the coronavirus spreading through mail and packages that have been shipped over a period of days or weeks. Even though the CDC has assured the public that the virus can’t last a significant amount of time on various surfaces, practicing extra safety precautions is never a bad idea. Wiping down a package with sanitary wipes and alcohol-based spray is good practice to avoid any other germs that could be lingering, even if the chances are small. 

Times have changed significantly, and therefore, our shopping practices must too. As the world shifts and adapts to the uncertainty of the coronavirus, it’s important to understand that companies are doing their best to keep their heads above water. Your business is valuable to all brands, small and large. Thinking about where you spend your money is even more important now as designers, employees, and fulfillment and delivery workers depend on business to operate as usual. It will be interesting to look toward the future as we watch how consumer behavior and retail operations change during and after this grave time of self-isolation. 


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