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CORDER’S COLUMN: Great businesses will come through this pandemic

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There was a time when I thought, and wrote, that only the postponement of this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo could top the bad news Omega has been enduring.

At the time, Coronavirus has forced the whole of Swatch Group to postpone its Time to Change kick-off event in Zurich. This was swiftly followed by this year’s James Bond blockbuster — a huge marketing partnership for Omega — being rescheduled for the Fall.

How insignificant these setbacks appear today, including moving the Olympics at which Omega is official timekeeper to 2021.

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As Swatch Group president Nick Hayek said as its full financial year results were announced, sales are at a standstill in countries where all retail has been shut down, which includes most of the United States and Europe.

There is hope that this month will be the nadir of the crisis as far as Swatch Group is concerned because life is slowly returning to normal in China where tens of millions of residents living near the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in Hubei Province have been allowed to travel again.

Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Singapore are also gradually lifting restrictions, although the road back to normality is long, there will be setbacks and the most affected countries are certain to already be at the beginning of a deep and damaging recession.

The United States is a number of weeks behind on the same graph charting the alarming spread of the virus through Western Europe. Things will get worse here before they get better, but the social distancing measures now being enforced in many US states is proving to be effective in Europe.

Italy is now four days past its peak in the number of new cases being recorded each day, it has been five days since the spike in Germany, but the UK and Spain are still seeing new cases increase.

The strictest shut down measures that are being seen in New York and California have been proven to slow down the spread of the virus significantly, helping to prevent healthcare services from being overwhelmed while science is getting closer to delivering vital advances in testing, treatment and vaccination.

Working from home in London, as I am now, is a little easier today than it was on Monday because there are signs now in the statistics and the science that this pandemic can be beaten. I am even optimistic that, when lock down rules are reviewed in three weeks, there is a chance of incremental relaxation that could make it clearer when non-essential stores can reopen.

Swatch Group, its rival Swiss watchmaking conglomerates and their global network of retail partners will bounce back. Until then, the focus should be on health, wellbeing and support of our families and co-workers at this difficult time.

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder