As the COVID-19 epidemic continues to rage across the world, a total of 187 countries and regions worldwide have reported confirmed cases and the total number of cases has exceeded 8.31 million as of June 15. On June 15, IHS Markit predicted a negative growth of 6.0% for the global economy in 2020. The global leader in information has also revised downward its forecast for the Taiwanese economy to a negative growth of 1.64%. Countries all over the world have implemented border control measures and adopted policies to lock down the whole country and thereby contain the epidemic. These measures have had a devastating impact on the global economy. However, the grave epidemic also has a severe impact on domestic industries. The Executive Yuan responded to this crisis with a strategy composed of the three major steps of epidemic prevention, economic relief, and revitalization. Taipei City Government has adopted relevant relief and revitalization measures based on the four principles of tax deferral, rent reduction, preferential interest, and revitalization in cooperation with the central government.
The Executive Yuan promulgated the Special Act for Prevention, Relief and Revitalization Measures for Severe Pneumonia with Novel Pathogens (hereinafter referred to as “the Special Act”) on February 25 to create a legal basis for epidemic prevention and raising of funds. The Special act had an initial budget of NT$ 60 billion. Also, government departments organized and consolidated existing budgets and funds totaling around NT$ 40 billion. A total of NT$ 100 billion has therefore been made available for relief and revitalization efforts. Special budgets, earmarked funds, and lines of credit have been expanded to NT$ 1.5 trillion in line with the worsening conditions of the epidemic. Relevant efforts encompass the three major categories of financing, employment, and tax affairs with all industries and businesses that are affected by the epidemic as the beneficiaries regardless of industry type. The relief package has been designed based on the four major principles of equal benefits, instant results, consolidation of the basis, and accelerated public construction and encompasses mid- and long-term revitalization and transition measures after the slowing down of the epidemic to assist industries in weathering the crisis.
The Taipei City Government has successively proposed and adopted various relief and revitalization measures and packages associated with epidemic prevention in coordination with the central government since March 1. The goal is to mitigate the impact of the epidemic on domestic industries and ease the burden on the public in addition to stimulating domestic consumption and invigorating the economy. Based on preliminary plans of the Department of Economic Development, the relief package can be divided into the following three main categories:
A. Business revitalization activities
1.“Revitalization” coupons and “Triple Stimulus Vouchers” issued by the central government: The Ministry of Economic Affairs has decided to issue “Revitalization” coupons worth a total of NT$ 2.3 billion, entitling holders to significant discounts. The domestic tourism industry represents the main beneficiary. Coupons worth NT$ 800 are issued for each hotel stay and coupons with a face value of NT$ 200 are available for use in four consumption categories (commercial districts and night markets including controlled markets and leisure factories, restaurants, and artistic & cultural activities). Coupons can be applied in full nationwide without any regional restrictions. According to preliminary inventories, around 400,000 businesses are expected to benefit from these coupons, which are projected to generate more than threefold in benefits. The second issuance of coupons is scheduled for July. This second stage has a projected budget over NT$ 20 billion and conforms to the principles of easy obtainability, convenient use, and stimulation of consumption. It is expected to generate tenfold in benefits.
Taipei City Government has completed preliminary plans for the organization of business revival activities in coordination with the central government starting in June. If city residents make purchases in stores located in Taipei City, they are eligible for additional discounts, top-value products in limited quantities, and prize draw activities to boost overall consumption.
2.Expansion of planned marketing activities or organization of activities earlier than scheduled: Taipei City Government has launched an activity titled “Uninterrupted Delivery of Taipei Gourmet Delicacies” in cooperation with food delivery service providers, culinary platforms, and mobile payment providers from May 15 to June 15 to promote culinary delicacies of the city and assist platforms in the dissemination of information on discounts offered by culinary businesses. This activity gave the public a chance to taste culinary delicacies at low prices. Over 10,000 stores and a total of six platforms (Easycard, Yowoo Delivery, Jkopay, foodomo, foodpanda, and Ubereats) participated in this activity. Different contracts and privileges were made available for listed culinary businesses of this city. In addition, the Department of Health offered an online workshop in April to remind online food delivery platforms of their responsibilities in the field of food safety during the epidemic (delivery within one hour, separate storage of hot and cold foods, important reminders for heat retention during delivery, regular cleaning of delivery containers, and registration of food businesses). This workshop aimed to enhance the literacy of delivery persons and cooperating restaurants in the field of health related laws and regulations and guarantee food safety for consumers.
3.Commercial district revitalization activities: Taipei City Office of Commerce and the Taipei City East District Development Association have jointly organized an activity titled Midori Art Market III. This market will be held as an art event at Dinghao Square, Liugong Park, and the green corridor at the back of SOGO Department Store every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 2:00 pm to 9:00 pm starting on February 28. This art market which is based on a brand-new concept had to be temporarily suspended due to the impact of the epidemic.
Despite these setbacks, Taipei City Government persists in its efforts to revitalize the commercial districts in the city. Planned activities to revive commercial districts in the second half of the year include the Commercial District Carnival and Life Festival, Taipei Culinary Month, Promotion of Friendly Stores in Taipei, and Commercial District Revitalization Subsidies. The revival of markets involves activities such as the Taipei Traditional Market Festival, 12th Anniversary of Guang Hua Digital Plaza, Taipei City Mall Bathrobe Festival, Longshan Temple Underground Shopping Bazaar and Taipei Night Market Promotion Activities. All these events aim to stimulate consumer spending and revitalize businesses.
B. Assistance in industrial transformations and support of corporate innovation
In response to the impact of the epidemic on commercial districts, market vendors, and physical stores in the city, the Department of Economic Development has planned various measures to open up multiple sales channels for affected businesses and individuals as described below.
Establishment of an online sales zone titled “Taipei Stores Deliver to Your Home” in cooperation with e-commerce platforms
The first stage of this marketing activity was initiated in late March. The city government launched “Taipei Stores Deliver to Your Home” in cooperation with three major e-commerce businesses (Momo Mall, Yahoo Mall, and PCstore). The activity was coupled with numerous discounts and promotions (e.g., reward point promotions, vouchers, gifts for purchases over specific amounts, limited offers for carefully selected stores, and big savings zones). In addition, several platforms offered programs for the conversion of physical shops to online stores. They provided free online courses and professional consultation and counseling in addition to discounts and transaction subsidies for e-commerce stores. The goal was to assist newcomers to e-commerce or stores that wish to engage in online operations in weathering the crisis and expanding their online customer base. A total of 220 stores on three major platforms contributed to this ambitious project, turning it into a great success. The turnover of participating stores grew by an average of 15 to 30% during the activity period, while the number of physical shops that converted to online operations also increased by around 30%. The activity, therefore, helped create significant business opportunities in the stay-at-home economy.
The second stage was launched in early May. In addition to the original three e-commerce platforms, five other e-business companies (Taiwan Rakuten Ichiba, JollyBuy, Eastern Home Shopping & Leisure, Mobix Corp, and Foodpanda) joined the ranks of activity sponsors. This stage featured a greater number of brand choices and discounts, enabling consumers to make their online purchases in a convenient and worry-free manner during the epidemic.
Guidance for physical stores in the utilization of diversified online marketing
Commercial districts, market vendors, and physical stores in Taipei City received guidance in attracting customers via online platforms. The program included the creation of a FB Fan Page, an official LINE account, and a special online zone for the promotion of food ingredients and unique products in cooperation with delivery service platforms. The goal was to open up multiple sales channels for affected businesses.
In addition, the Department of Economic Development plans to organize courses on business management abilities starting in June. Course contents encompass in-depth practice in the fields of digital marketing, the transition to e-commerce, and commercial district guidance. The goal lies in providing participants with the ability to apply e-commerce concepts and enhancement of skills and knowledge in the field of digital retail.
Optimization of commercial district services and environments
The city government continues to enlist stores in Taipei for the Taipei Friendly Store program. It features foreign language support (English, Japanese, Korean), mobile device charging, pet-friendly, friendly-restroom, and obstacle-free services, gender-friendly, credit card/Easycard/third-party payment, vegetarian-friendly, Free WiFi, bicycle-friendly, breastfeeding-friendly, and Muslim-friendly services to optimize the overall purchase environment. Also, technology applications are adopted and innovative marketing models are developed in accordance with commercial district attributes to create new retail pilot districts, assist stores in transformations and upgrades, and enhance the brand value.
Assistance to enterprises in the utilization of cross-border e-commerce platforms to expand markets
COVID-19 has devastated the economy but has also generated new opportunities for the e-commerce industry. The Department of Economic Development continues to provide services including IT guidance, talent training, industry-academia collaboration, and integration of business opportunities in the context of the Program for Utilization of Cross-Border E-Commerce Platforms by Taipei Enterprises to Expand Sales Markets. In addition, highly efficient courses on cross-border e-commerce and special courses on different B2B and B2C e-commerce business models are offered for trading companies. All courses are administered online and encompass content optimization, marketing layout, sales skills, development of business opportunities in response to the epidemic, and sharing of cases. The goal is to give enterprises an early grasp of the latest e-commerce trends and the pulse of the market and prepare them to take on new challenges after the end of the epidemic.
In addition, the department plans to organize three Global Procurement Video Conferences starting in July to assist enterprises in the expansion of overseas business opportunities and rapid restoration of normal operations. 75 local enterprises will get a chance to engage in online negotiations with potential international buyers.
Promotion of a sales platform for organic vegetables
As of September 2019, the Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Co., Ltd. (TAPMC) served as a platform for the supply of organic vegetables for school lunches at junior high schools and elementary schools in Taipei. In response to the pushed back semester start as a result of the epidemic, the city government enlisted units, departments, bureaus, and commercial districts for group purchase activities. TAPMC has launched online vegetable purchase services and aims to target the stay-at-home market with gift boxes filled with carefully selected organic vegetables. Drive-thru concepts of the culinary industry have been adopted for the establishment of drive-in zones to facilitate the diversification of product offerings and ensure time- and effort-saving purchases.
C. Agricultural produce and floral product marketing activities
Numerous large-scale events had to be scaled down or canceled due to the epidemic, which led to a substantial decrease of exports and shrinking domestic sales of floral products which are not daily necessities, generating significant pressure in the field of production and marketing. Taipei City Government therefore organized the Horticultural Therapy Exhibition from April 16 to May 27 in cooperation with the Agriculture and Food Agency and Taipei Flower Market at Shilin Official Residence Park, Daan Forest Park, and Taipei Expo Park. The expo features attractive displays in glass houses to prevent the gathering of large crowds of flower lovers and offer protection against weather impacts. Taipei Flower Market enlisted floral design teams formed by International Floral Design Education Foundation, Mandarin Florist, and Taipei Flower Market Consultants to create floral installations in three different areas by utilizing seasonal shop window display concepts and thereby generate different spatial ambiences for the public. Utilized species included locally grown cut lilies, Texas bluebells, Transvaal daisies, Flamingo lilies, and Golden marguerites. Themes including “Immerse Yourself in Floral Beauty,” “Warm Floral Fragrance,” “Floral Chatter in Soft Light,” “Let Flowers Soothe Your Heart,” “Lush Floral Arrangements,” and “Rich Floral Banquet” were switched every two weeks. The ultimate goal was to provide a recreational outdoor space as a welcome distraction for the public in these dire times. In addition to soothing the mind and soul, this activity also aimed to boost the sales of floral products since all displayed flowers are available for purchase from local florists.
The Taipei Expo Farmer’s Market organizes exhibition-sale activities for agricultural specialty products from all over the country every weekend. During the COVID-19 epidemic, all vendors and work personnel are required to wear face masks in this outdoor space at all times. Relevant measures also include forehead temperature taking, hand sanitizers, and expanded booth space and passageways. The displayed fruit and vegetables are subject to random sampling to ensure that no pesticide residues or hazardous substances are present and thereby guaranteeing food safety for city residents. Taipei City Government plans to step up promotion activities in July through special promotions at fixed times, FB posts, online news releases, and planning of theme month events for markets. The goal is to increase the visibility of information on market activities, restore consumer confidence as the epidemic slows down, boost sales of agricultural products, and help farmers weather this crisis.
As a result of the epidemic, public purchasing power has dropped dramatically. The turnover of the domestic retail industry and culinary industry in Q1 has decreased by 3.4% and 6.6%, respectively, compared to the same period of the previous year. In contrast to neighboring countries that have adopted strict epidemic control measures, Taiwan has been comparatively less affected by the virus. However, a large number of small- and medium-sized enterprises and the service industry bear the brunt of contracting economic activity. Taipei City Government has therefore established Special Relief Zones for affected industries in response to Severe Pneumonia with Novel Pathogens in addition to the adoption of various revitalization programs in the wake of the slowing down of the epidemic. Relevant measures include commercial district revival, industry upgrades, transformations, and innovation, marketing and promotion of agricultural produce and floral products, and expansion of overseas business opportunities. The goal is to generate maximum effects with limited resources. The epidemic caused adjustments at all levels of public life coupled with drastic changes in the outlook of numerous industries. In the future, Taipei City Government will maintain a cautious attitude in the face of economic changes and developments and continue its efforts in the stabilization of the confidence of city residents and enterprises in the city.