There is no question that covid-19 took us all by surprise. We were living in a period of relative economic growth looking at the future with confidence when suddenly the bomb exploded. The word Covid-19 started dominating the headlines in the news media. In the beginning it was something that appeared to be happening far away, not a matter of concern for us, Europeans. A virus that did not concern us and thus we did not need to prepare for it. But all it took was just a few months for the fire to spread when we came to realize that this would have a huge impact on just about everything. In February the business still went on “as usual”. In March we started getting reports of events being cancelled. There were just a few of them at first, but soon enough just about all fairs and other big events informed that they were cancelled or postponed. This triggered a whole new reality for the economy and business life all over the world.
This moment was very tangible during “Amber Trip” in Vilnius in March when the fair management had to make the difficult decision to close the fair after only two working days. It was definitely the responsible decision to make, and, of course, there was no other alternative but to follow the instructions of the Government. It was that moment when many exhibitors experienced an abrupt stop of their businesses as everything planned for the rest of the year went up in smoke overnight.
The initial shock of everything stopping was overwhelming. For one there was the challenge of simply figuring out how to get home as borders with all neighbouring countries kept closing one after the other. How would our businesses survive the demanded 14-day quarantine when we get home? How would they survive a longer closedown altogether? However, the notion that the whole world shares this experience created a sense of unity and a fighting spirit. There was no atmosphere of giving up. On the contrary, we have seen a wave of new innovations, ways of working and doing business emerging in a short span of time.
The mankind is good at compensating in general. If we lose one of our senses, we seem to be able to compensate it with another one. This is what we see happening in the business world right now. It goes without saying that there are as many stories as there are companies, and the help and support small businesses can receive from their countries’ respective governments vary from a country to country. What we have in common seems to be ingenuity and access to technology. In an amazingly short period of time offices, schools, small businesses, fairs and sales events have created new ways of conducting their work and duties online. We have taken a giant leap towards a totally new way of working through this time of global shutdown.
The new situation has clearly shown the vulnerability of globalization. Manufacturing and supply chains have been concentrated in the Far East and, as these areas have been closed, we realized that we needed to reconsider how we could ensure our ability to have access to raw materials and the services of subcontractors during an unexpected crisis. This may lead to geographical restructuring in the future.
The industry of Jewellery represents ancient values and essentially it is conducted on a physical person to person basis. The current situation has changed these perimeters forcing us to rethink many aspects of conducting business.
We saw traditional trade fairs move to the digital space in a short span of time. It was a new concept that apparently has been quite successful considering the short notice for planning such events. Small business jewellers have started offering concierge services fetching and delivering their products to their consumers’ homes safely. Communication works well over the internet thus allowing people, who do not feel safe going outside, to conduct business as usual.
Now we can see that web shops have created many other digital aids and solutions we could not have imagined seeing the daylight in our business. Entrepreneurs have taken steps to improve their digital skills and apply them in new ways to be able to stay in business during these exceptional times. We see workshops and studios come to life by posting pictures and interesting contents on Instagram. Sharing and interaction is the new and growing way of communicating with your customers.
Covid-19 has hit us hard. The turnover of the markets has dropped drastically and many businesses have faced bankruptcy. Although the states have allocated huge amounts of monetary for support, this is not enough to compensate for the damage done in just a few months. Slowly but surely the wheels are starting to roll again. But it will take a long time before we are back to “normal”, whatever that will mean in the future. Looking at statistics indicates that we are moving in the right direction, as far as the number of covid-19 cases is concerned, but we do not know what would happen if there is the second wave of the virus in the fall. This complicates planning for the future. The one thing that this epidemic has taught us is that nothing is certain and that we need to think ahead and anticipate the impossible. I truly believe that this process has started and something new will bloom from all of this sadness. What and when remains yet to be seen.