While it’s genuinely hard to talk about success stories when referring to Covid-19 and the response of individual governments, Taiwan has undoubtedly set an example for others to follow.
At the most recent count, this Asian nation has reported just 442 confirmed cases and seven deaths in total, with Taiwan subsequently being lauded as a model for public health governance in these unprecedented times.
In this post, we’ll ask how Taiwan responded so positively to the Covid-19 challenge, while asking what this has meant for their dominant retail sector.
The Initial Covid Response
Following the initial outbreak in the province of Wuhan, it was feared that Taiwan’s inherent trade links with China would cause the country to record the highest number of cases outside of mainland China.
This forecast has proved far from accurate, however, largely thanks to Taiwan’s decisive early action and the harsh lessons that had been learned during the SARS epidemic in 2003. The latter made the nation more prepared than many of the states outside of the Southeast Asia region, and this has stood Taiwan in good stead during the last few months.
In terms of initial action, Taiwan was quick to introduce a sweeping travel ban on visitors from China, Macau and Hong Kong, in response to mounting case numbers in these regions.
At the same time, the government also began to ration its existing supply of masks in late January, in anticipation of rising demand and the needs of key workers nationwide. Incredibly, this process has been superbly well-managed and efficient, and the fact remains that citizens can now buy masks from any designated drug store.
Not only this, but Taiwan also leveraged the existing strength of its manufacturing sector and invested an estimated $6.8 million ($6 million) to create a total of 60 new mask production lines.
Appraising the Strength of Taiwan’s Retail Sector
The ability of Taiwan to cope with the Covid outbreak is also reflected by the relative strength of the nation’s crucial retail sector, and the capacity of brands to adapt to their new reality and the changing behaviour of consumers.
This response has also helped Taiwanese stocks and the nation’s currency to perform relatively well throughout Q1, creating hope for a more prosperous second-half of 2020.
Brands in Taiwan have also showed immense resilience in the face of reduced in-store spending and changing behaviours, which contributed to a 0.6% decline in general retail sales in relation to Q1 2019. Interestingly, this represented a relatively small decline in relation to some nations, whole online sales increased by a whopping 19.1% to $2.7 billion during the same period.
Of course, brands that moved quickly to facilitate a digital transformation (or at least switch their focus online) and built additional selling channels have led the way in the burgeoning ecommerce market, while collaboration between firms has also showcased a valuable lesson for businesses in other areas of the world.
Take the partnership between Taiwan’s FamilyMart and Foodpanda, for example, who joined forces to provide delivery services from around 1,000 outlets and enabled citizens to maintain social distancing measures without compromising on their daily necessities.