April 25, 2003
Market research is an essentially social activity when it requires primary data collection among consumers. While much publicity on the effects of SARS in China has been focused on the airline, health-care, tourism, and restaurant industries, secondary effects are wide ranging.
These include initially less obvious targets such as seafood sellers in Australia who report plummeting prices as the normally high-spending Hong Kong buyers absent themselves from fish markets while dining out in Hong Kong becomes almost non-existent. In the domestic Australian market today, a coral trout usually priced at around $25 USD per kilo can be had for less than half that amount.
Yet it is in China and Hong Kong where SARS is changing working and personal lives of almost all and constitutes a threat significantly greater than to any other population center or economy.
Today Beijing, China's bustling capital city, along with the whole Shanxi province and Toronto in Canada were added to the WHO list of centres with strong travel advisories due to the prevalence of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in each place.
Today also, Beijing's railway station was thronging with people vacating the city, and perhaps even spreading the virus to other parts of China.
In the meantime, as reported in our earlier item on SARS strikes market research in Asia, the SARS virus continues to force major changes to the administration of market research in perhaps the world's most exciting consumer market.
One of our sources, a managing director of a major research agency located in Beijing reported that almost all ongoing research within his company had been postponed. His communication follows:
"...As you might have already aware the SARS situation in Beijing is getting serious. In Beijing, everyone seems to be in a panic at present and are starting to store food, hence the supermarkets have already depleted their stocks of detergent, salt, soy sauce etc. The Chinese Labour Day holiday will start from 1st May until 6th of May which means in this period we are unlikely to conduct any interviews. The holiday has been curtailed by the government, but most people will stay indoors and at home during this period, holiday or not. As far as I understand some of the international market research companies in Beijing have either closed down or are only operating at 50%, which means employees are working in shifts with the rest staying at home until the 6th of May.
The following procedures are now in force...
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