In My Opinion: Thomas O’Brien on Coronavirus

Boxer Gifts’ director Thomas O’Brien comments on the current impact of coronavirus on the gift industry and coming out the other side.

“Trying to find some positive words about how we in the gift trade move forward, I thought easy! A theme of Keep Calm and Carry On will do just fine. This crisis will end and the gift trade will be back to normal, right? Essentially true, but right now the big questions are how do we get to the other side and how long will it take?

With rent and rates holidays offered by the government, operating costs will significantly drop. The ‘furloughed workers’ deal allows businesses to retain staff, while saving on salary costs. All great to keep businesses ready for the inevitable return to normality (whatever that will look like).

So far so good, but big events like this change habits, and change them for good. I doubt things will ever be the same for the post COVID-19 consumer. Just a few weeks into this, social habits are already different.

We all want to get through – but how? We could lock the doors and wait it out. Hack operating costs to more or less nothing; sit back, isolate and wait for the good times to come back.

However, it’s better to adapt your business radically to the new world for the short term and stay relevant! Look for new ways to keep gift retailer visible in the community as it’s a great place to offer services and goods that consumers just can’t get otherwise. Can you help your local NHS by collecting prescriptions or helping key workers keep motivated in a tough time by sourcing gifts for NHS teams? Perhaps there are supplies that the local supermarket isn’t restocking as they’re quite rightly prioritising food? At Boxer we’ve been in touch with local grocers and NHS teams. There will be some way we can use our excellent team setup to help get vital goods out there in a crisis.

Now is not the time to profiteer by taking key products away from the NHS or supermarkets. Forget profit – just cover your costs. Stay relevant, be there for your neighbours and community, they’ll pay you back in spades on the other side.”


Top: Thomas O’Brien, director, Boxer Gifts.

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