Covid-19 – Counting the Losses and Learning the Lessons

 In light of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the retail sector is facing unprecedented challenges, as is every other industry to a greater or lesser degree. However, ScanZone, a technology supplier to the industry, believes that the current slowdown may be a window of opportunity for retailers to retrospectively look at their journey into e-commerce platforms.

In the face of the current Covid-19 adversity, ScanZone, a 100% Level One female-owned ICT company which provides Point of Sale and Auto Identification Solutions to the retail sector and other industries, says that the current challenges may be an opportunity for businesses to find workable solutions that will dictate a positive outcome in the future.

That the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown are proving to be dire for the retail and related businesses is no overstatement. Aslam Peerbacus, Regional Sales Manager at ScanZone, explains that as a supplier to the retail sector, the company is feeling the pinch of the current slowdown influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic.

ScanZone, part of Umklomelo Electronics and IT Solutions Pty Ltd, offers a range of services, including onsite and in-house repair of point of sale and auto identification hardware; consultative services targeted towards Internet of Things (IoT) and Cloud Computing solutions to the Retail, Transport and Logistics, Manufacturing and the Healthcare industries.

Commenting on the effects of Covid-19 to the business, Peerbacus says with the company not being able to carry out business as usual, this has inevitably translated into a significant decrease in revenue, while operational and overhead expenditure still remain. Staff remuneration is also effected – while the company is able to pay base wages in full, the staff cannot earn commission due to the company’s inability to deliver goods and invoice on sales.

While ScanZone has been granted permission to operate as an essential service provider during the lockdown period to supply and service a portion of its clientele that remain operational within the retail, medical and manufacturing sectors, sales enquiries have generally slowed down to a snail pace, while repair revenue has decreased in parallel.

“Business costs have also increased based on staff requiring additional facilities such as internet and telephone connectivity from home while we continue to pay for the subscriptions of the same services at the office,” says Peerbacus.

“Given that our OEM partners are Europe, United States and Asia-based and supply of products is dependent on imports, the cost of sales have increased, largely due to the fluctuation of the rand against the dollar, in parallel with the recent downgrading of South Africa’s sovereign credit rating by rating agencies Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch,” he adds.

While recognising these challenges currently afflicting the business, Peerbacus says ScanZone has responded with a couple of interventions. Due to the lockdown restrictions, the staff at ScanZone were instructed to work remotely from home to ensure their safety and well-being during these trying times. More importantly, ScanZone has taken the downtime as an opportunity to upskill its staff via remote learning on products and solutions.

The company is leveraging the benefits of technology to make the most of the situation. “Through our online ordering portal and Live Chat facility, we still remain active in terms of providing sales support remotely, as well as taking orders that will fall into our backorder sales category, for delivery, soon after the lockdown,” says Peerbacus.

“We are in the process of upgrading our secondary website that focuses on mobility solutions. The slowdown in business has in fact provided us with a window of opportunity to action this initiative. The benefits of this are beyond the lockdown period; this puts us in good stead to improve our offering and customer service going forward,” he adds.

Peerbacus believes that the retailing sector itself can also take advantage of the business slowdown to innovate. “Bigger retailers have embraced e-commerce technology sets to a certain level. It is an opportunity to further digitise their platforms to provide a seamless experience when it comes to customer sales and support via digital platforms,” he says.

“For the smaller retailers, it is a time to retrospectively look at their journey into e-commerce platforms while still maintaining a brick and mortar store. Due to the constraints on the local economy, retailers should look at loyalty programmes and the best way to utilise them in order to assist consumers with some sort of financial relief. On essential food items, retailers should also look at ways they can lower the cost of goods to the consumer where possible, while still maintaining healthy profit margins in order to keep their current workforce employed.”

In conclusion, Peerbacus says innovation and technology advancement is key to the future. “In preparation for the inevitable and based on current experience with regards to economic slowdown and the global crisis, businesses should have a solid strategy or contingency plan to implement going forward,” he concludes.


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