Coronavirus: Five firms booming despite the lockdown

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A woman shares a drink with friends via a video callImage source, AFP
Image caption,
People sharing a drink with friends on video calls have given wine sellers a new opportunity

For many businesses, coronavirus is the toughest problem they've ever had to face.

With their customers under lockdown, shops shuttered, cashflow drying up and their staff on furlough, they wonder how they're going to survive.

But amid all these threats, some companies are finding ways to forge ahead.

Big and small, the following firms are all taking advantage of new commercial opportunities.

Stitch & Story

Image source, Felipe Goncalves
Image caption,
Jen Hoang and Jennifer Lam have a mission to make knitting cool

A company that began as a "kitchen-table start-up" is one of the businesses that is booming during the coronavirus pandemic.

Stitch & Story is an online crafts firm with just 11 full-time employees, selling materials and providing tutorials for people who want to learn how to knit and crochet.

It has seen huge growth in recent weeks.

Co-founder Jennifer Lam told the BBC that she and her business partner, Jen Hoang, started the business seven years ago with the aim of inspiring a new generation of millennials to learn knitting and crocheting skills.

"When we started, crafting was seen as really old-fashioned and people just didn't understand how to do it," she said.

But now, especially with so many people on lockdown, interest has soared.

"Sales are surging, up massively. We had an 800% increase in March alone compared to the same period last year," she said.

"It's just something that's perfect to do now. So many people are sick of working on screens and being on their phones all the time. Crafting is seen as a break from that.

"It's just so rewarding to make something from scratch."

Tone & Sculpt

Image source, Krissy Cela
Image caption,
Krissy Cela says you can stay fit without going to the gym

Fitness entrepreneur Krissy Cela launched her app-based workout and nutrition guides as a subscription service in January 2019, with the aim of creating a "global community of like-minded women" who wanted to keep in shape.

"People were very sceptical at first because the traditional way is to go to the gym and hire a trainer," she says. "However, that can be very expensive."

Now, of course, going to a gym is out of the question so her Tone & Sculpt app is reaching new levels of popularity.

"We've seen growth of 88% in downloads during April compared with last year," she says. "Turnover has literally tripled in the last year."

Ms Cela says her home-based exercise routines are "helping people to stay on track" at a time when "a lot of people are finding it difficult even to stay mentally positive".

With promotion of the app spreading largely by word of mouth and social media, she and her team of 17 employees are delighted with the surge in interest.

"It just goes to show that you don't need fancy equipment, which can be overwhelming," she says. "We have to make do with our homes and what we can find around us."

Laithwaite's Wine

Image source, Laithwaite's Wine
Image caption,
Tony Laithwaite founded the company that bears his name in 1969

Despite the lockdown, people are still finding ways to remain convivial, and family-run wine delivery business Laithwaite's Wine has been helping them to do just that.

The company says it has seen a big rise in sales of prosecco - up 117% year-on-year during April - and it has noticed that smaller half-bottle and quarter-bottle sizes are the most popular.

"People are on Zoom having a glass with friends and the smaller formats are a little bit more sociable," company spokesman Andrew Stead told the BBC.

"We believe that wine's role is to keep people together, and if people are coming together at a distance, they're still coming together."

More generally, Laithwaite's has seen a 300% rise in new customers year-on-year in March and April.

"People are avoiding supermarkets and we're still delivering within two to three days," said Mr Stead.

"We're seeing a level of sales we would normally associate with Christmas. Our sales at the moment are about double what we would expect for this time of year."

He added that the firm had been receiving positive feedback from customers, but also from wineries thanking it for keeping their businesses going.

"That makes us feel we're doing our bit to help everyone staying in."


Image source, Netflix
Image caption,
Documentary series Tiger King has been a big global hit for Netflix

For those who aren't concerned with staying smart and trim or acquiring new craft skills, coronavirus confinement offers the chance to just slump on the sofa and watch television.

That's where media streaming services come in - and Netflix, for one, has seen subscriber numbers surge this year.

Almost 16 million people created accounts in the first three months of the year, the firm said.

That is nearly double the number of new sign-ups it saw in the final months of 2019.

However, the firm's popularity and profitability depends on offering exclusive access to hit TV series and movies that people want to watch.

And coronavirus is hampering its ability to come up with new programming, since production shutdowns have halted "almost all" filming around the world.

However, entertainment industry experts do not see that as a major issue right now.

"Netflix is and will continue to be the media company least impacted by Covid-19," said eMarketer analyst Eric Haggstrom. "Its business is a near perfect fit to a population that is suddenly housebound."


Image source, Boohoo

Fashion businesses have faced a series of setbacks during the coronavirus pandemic.

Their global supply chains were an asset in happier times, allowing them to source clothes cheaply and swiftly.

But now they are stuck with orders coming from the other side of the world that will struggle to find customers.

Boohoo, for one, has found a way to adapt to the new normal. If people aren't venturing much outside their front doors any more, what kinds of clothes do they still need?

"People aren't really buying going-out items, but they are buying homewear - hoodies, joggers, tracksuit bottoms," a Boohoo spokesperson told the BBC.

"Sales of tops have gone up in particular, with everyone wanting to look smart on Zoom calls."

As a result, the firm has seen a year-on-year rise in sales during April, at a time when rivals have reported a collapse in demand.