Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Plague of 2020: Economic Impacts I

One of the websites I have followed for some years now is, which is an aggregator of layoffs, closings, and bankruptcies.  As you can imagine, it has been rather populated with bad news over the last few months.

As I have been following this and the continuing economic wreckage that is The Plague of 2020, I got to thinking about when - and if - we finally "come out" of this, what the world of business and economics will look like based on what we have seen so far.  I do not know that this qualifies as "fun", but for me it is an interesting thought exercise.  So my thoughts, or even semi-guesses, on what the world of business will look like next year (Warning:  I am not a trained economist, merely an observer):

1)  Offices - Office space will be widely available through two reasons.  The first (and most unfortunate) is lay offs due to decreased business needs.  The second is that many companies have discovered that many people can work from home.  This not only reduces the company's overhead for office space, but also reduces the company's spend on those common items like electricity, water, common area expenses, and things as minor as coffee and supplies (which are all passed on to the employee working at home, by the by).  Commercial Real Estate Investment companies and landlords will suffer as a result of this.

2)  Restaurants - If this goes on long enough and we continue with the "on again, off again" model for indoor activities, continue to look for restaurants to shut down.  But a potential additional outcome is the growth of the "Storefront" restaurant (also the take out restaurant, although I prefer the British term "Take Away").  Why should  restaurant pay for costly real estate, utilities, and employees when they can just pay for a kitchen and an area to pay and pick up?  Yes, many locales still allow patio or outdoor dining, but that only works when people want to be outdoors:  no good in the summer in the American Southwest or in the Winter almost anywhere not in the American Southwest.  Again, costly real estate.  Commercial Real Estate Investment companies, landlords, servers/dishwashers, and certain kinds of suppliers (I cannot imagine the high end alcohol restaurant suppliers are doing well in this) will suffer.

3)  Personal care (hair salons, nail salons, sports massage) - these may very well start to move towards smaller, private institutions with people beginning to work out of their home or just smaller footprints overall .  The 10 stall hair salon may become a thing of the past (again, paying for real estate); the storefront hair salon where an appointment is made for a single operator (like the old style barbershops) or someone converting their garage into a small salon seems more likely.  Again, Commercial Real Estate Investment companies and landlords most at risk, those hair/nail experts or masseuses that cannot find a way to flex most at risk.

4)  Retail - This has seemingly become a complete wasteland, if you have at all been tracking the stores that are going away.  Lots of large name companies are going into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which here (in the US), means that they are reorganizing, not necessarily going out of business (but lots of folks just going out of business).  Shopping is no longer a social activity and given the environment of economic uncertainty, lots of people are just not shopping (but are paying down their credit card debts, so good on everone).  Also, depending on the industry, demand has dried up (not a lot of call for business suits or evening gowns at the moment).

In my own household, the model is very much if someone is going to a store, it is because they know exactly what they are going for (e.g., they now all shop like me).  No more just rambling to see what is out there.  Out, into the store to collect what is needed, and then straight back home - or online, shopping, of course.

Hard to say that there will be any good news here.  Commercial Real Estate companies, landlords, property managers, retail employees, shipping companies - everyone is impacted here.  There will be a growth in order fulfillment and delivery services for online companies of course (we can argue what that means later), but I suspect that this will not offset the other.

5) Group Activities - Here I am thinking about things that are largely entertainment based:  bars, restaurants (but discussed above), indoor activity venues (bowling/arcades/movie theaters/general theaters/concert halls/trampoline parks), that sort of thing.  And here, again, the news will not be good.

These require the same sorts of things that restaurants need: foot traffic, a reliable environment that always allows them to be open, disposable income that allows people to go there, and a willingness for people to be in close proximity to each other.  The first three of those are at risk and the fourth in varying degrees, depending on where you are.  Additionally, there is a fifth issue:  these sorts of venues typically involve large capital upfront outlays and maintenance so their overall costs would tend to be higher.

I suspect the longer this goes, the more and more of these we will see disappear without anything to replace them (the risk of reopening by a new owner will be too high).  They may never completely disappear, but what will undoubtedly be the new social distancing regime will mean that they can have fewer folks overall and those folks will have to plan ahead far more in advance.  Most people will not make the effort.

Again, Commercial Real Estate companies, landlords, line employees, suppliers (largely food and alcohol suppliers I suspect) most impacted.

This is not meant to be a complete list but it is telling to me that certain groups - Real Estate Holders and those involved with real estate, retail/entry level employees, and supply chains - are possibly the most impacted.  If I was in those industries, I would be seriously looking for a new career.

What do you think?  Any impacts I missed?  Any sub-groups I failed to call out?


  1. All in an effort to see that Trump is not re-elected.
    I want it back the way it was. :-/

    1. Linda, it seems to me that this is a training for government to take authority over every aspect of one's existence. One can say that it is to flatten the curve, but it is alarming to me that the government believes that it has the ability to what we do and where we go. My fear is the next time the government acts this way - for whatever reason - we have already trained ourselves to respond this way.

  2. Anonymous3:25 AM

    Single adults with young family apartment dwellers are going to have it rough. Way back in 2008 during the recession, I saw a lot of new camping trailers set up in home backyards, set up for families which were forced to 'bundle up'. I haven't seen the same (yet), but am thinking this will likely occur soon.

    1. Anonymous, I just heard that 33% of mortgages were not paid in June. I assume it will be worse in July. I have seen a very few camping trailers in my neck of the woods but yes, I think it more likely as well.

      Thanks for stopping by!


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