What the Coronavirus Pandemic Means for Warehousing

Like so many other jobs, much of the work involved in the Warehouse industry is not something that can be done from home.  Government rules state that if you must go to work then you should practice social distancing, making sure you stand at least 2 metres apart from any other person.

But is it practical to assume that workers can maintain that kind of social distance in busier, thriving warehouse operations?

One such case is that of an Amazon fulfilment centre in New York, where workers have taken strike action against the online giant. They say that they’re expected to work from premises that has had reports of multiple employees testing positive for Coronavirus.  They feel it’s not fair to be expected to carry on working amid the pandemic without the facility having been sanitized, and correct safety clothing and equipment issued.  Some reports even allege that gloves are being rationed!

Separately, Amazon has come under fire from third party sellers who have had orders of non-essential items blocked, due to overwhelming demand for household essentials during the pandemic.  The decision to restrict warehouse stock to household essentials leaves third party sellers in a fix, as they can still receive orders only to have Amazon halt shipment.

For some sectors, business has never been busier.  The demand for consumable products during March has seen an upturn of over 20%. Production has been stepped up to cope with the demand and warehouse space is at a premium whilst stock is stored waiting to be shipped.

Britain’s clothing and houseware retailers have pinned their hopes on digital sales in the wake of the government’s order to close all non-essential stores.  Revenue generated from online sales could be the only hope of saving them from permanent closure.  This puts extra pressure on warehouse and distribution staff at a time when many employees are having to stay at home to isolate.  And if those website clicks don’t convert into sales, then many manufacturers and retailers will have stock piling situations, where they might have to rethink their business model in order to move existing stock.

In essence, a whole season has been lost; young people are switching from buying outfits to digital subscriptions, so the long term prognosis may not be fully known until retail restrictions are lifted.


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