Finance chiefs say they’re cautious of recent lockdown measures geared toward curbing the unfold of the coronavirus, however have contingency plans prepared—in distinction to the spring, when restrictions caught many firms off guard.
U.S. coronavirus cases have been surging in latest weeks, with confirmed infections exceeding 100,000 day by day since early November, whereas hospitalizations topped 88,000 on Tuesday. Certain states, including New York, Minnesota and Nevada, have imposed curfews or tightened other restrictions to comprise the unfold, reversing earlier strikes to loosen rules.
Different states might observe if the caseload retains rising. The prospect is worrying enterprise leaders, though one other federal lockdown seems much less seemingly now. President-elect Joe Biden, who is ready to take workplace in January, final week stated he doesn’t think about such an order mandatory. President Trump has been criticizing latest state-level restrictions.
Fifty-four p.c of executives stated virus-related lockdown measures are their largest concern, in accordance with a survey carried out between Nov. 9 and Nov. 13 by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. The professional-services agency surveyed 656 executives at U.S. firms, 35% of whom are chief monetary officers or finance professionals.
Within the early days of the pandemic, firms throughout sectors, together with eating places, retailers and different consumer-facing companies, scrambled to reply as authorities closed nonessential operations. Many companies tapped credit lines, sold new debt and lower or furloughed staff to shore up their steadiness sheets and keep afloat.
Corporations that survived say that eight months later, they’re higher ready to deal with new restrictions. CFOs in latest months have included the virus into their monetary forecasting and planning, permitting them to investigate whether or not extra rules would drive them to bulk up on stock or reply to sudden shifts in client demand.
“The secret is to remain very centered on what you’ll be able to management within the right here and now, notably in anticipation of probably extra lockdowns within the winter interval,” stated John Murphy, chief monetary officer at Coca-Cola Co. The soft-drinks maker has upped its scenario-planning and improved its backup plans for the approaching months, he stated.
Retailers, particularly, are higher ready this time round to deal with the affect of recent lockdown orders as a result of many have ramped up know-how investments for e-commerce and curbside pickup, stated Hunter Williams, a companion within the retail and client items observe at advisory agency Oliver Wyman.
, the clothes retailer, has been making ready for brand new lockdowns within the fall and winter, stated finance chief Scott Lipesky. If it needed to shut its shops once more, the New Albany, Ohio-based firm would first attempt to determine what number of staff to maintain on the payroll, Mr. Lipesky stated. Then, Abercrombie & Fitch would concentrate on promoting the stock held in shops via on-line channels or curbside pickup, he stated.
“We’ve closed and reopened shops now a number of instances in a number of jurisdictions world wide, so we now have a playbook in place,” Mr. Lipesky stated. “We’re getting fairly good at it, sadly.”
Abercrombie & Fitch operates greater than 850 shops world wide, the vast majority of which it needed to briefly shut early within the yr. It employed 44,000 folks as of Feb. 1.
Quick-food chain Church’s Rooster is anticipating the closure of a few of its roughly 1,600 places, notably these in malls in international international locations, in accordance with Peter Servold, head of operations. Reopening a restaurant after a short lived closure can include a hefty price ticket—between $10,000 and $20,000—he stated, referring to restaurant companies on the whole.
However many of the firm’s shops have stayed open in the course of the pandemic, with greater than 90% of gross sales within the U.S. coming via its drive-through business.
The Atlanta-based firm developed a brand new app that remotely screens the operations of its eating places world wide. The know-how has allowed managers to maintain tabs on the efficiency of its places with out visiting them in individual. “We now have been via this earlier than,” Mr. Servold stated. “We gained’t be caught abruptly.”
Many firms have established inner job forces—which generally embrace the CFO—to assist decision-making about company security guidelines and how you can talk with staff, stated Atif Zaim, a principal at KPMG LLP, who’s advising firms on pandemic-related workforce points.
One other factor that has modified for the reason that early days of the pandemic is shoppers have discovered to adapt to new restrictions. Prospects at
, a Chicago-based sandwich chain, have gotten used to curbside pickup and drive-through following short-term retailer closures earlier this yr, CFO Steven Cirulis stated.
“Whereas we might like to have all channels open to full capability, we perceive that’s not one thing that’s seemingly, at the very least maybe [in] the winter months,” he stated.
—Nina Trentmann contributed to this text.
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