The effective official recommendations and restrictions as well as the recent discussions on movement restrictions strongly influence the operations and sales of companies in the commerce sector. It is much easier for companies to map out their business and personnel needs if there is a concrete and clear plan for removing restrictions. Therefore, the criteria for lifting restrictions should be more precise, presented preferably in numerical form and made publicly available. In addition, these criteria should be monitored as close to real-time and as transparent as possible. This would enable companies to have a clearer planning horizon.
‘A close dialogue between public authorities, decision-makers and traders on the lifting or introduction of additional restrictions is essential for ensuring the continuity of services that are essential for people’s daily lives and the security of supply, as well for as for enabling safe transactions for customers,’ says Mari Kiviniemi, Managing Director of the Finnish Commerce Federation.
Companies in the commerce sector will continue to take measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as required by the disease situation in order to maintain a safe business and working environment, even when restrictions start to be lifted.
Focusing vaccines on affected areas and introducing the coronavirus passport will speed up the lifting of restrictions
Vaccine coverage is of great importance when restrictions start to be lifted. According to the Finnish Commerce Federation, we should start focusing vaccines on the worst hit areas straight away. In addition, jobs that cannot be carried out remotely or where it is hard to provide workers with adequate protection, as well as the situation of workers whose jobs are critical to security of supply, should be taken into consideration in the vaccination plan. Private occupational health care should be involved as much as possible in the administration of vaccines.
Finland should get ready, as it will be among the first countries to introduce the coronavirus passport proposed by the European Commission, which will facilitate cross-border travel and speed up the opening up of society more widely. All necessary measures to enable safe commuting should also be introduced without delay.
‘It is of paramount importance for Finnish companies to participate in global commerce and to be involved in the resurgence of international business and cooperation,’ Kiviniemi emphasises.
Supporting the growth of companies affected by the pandemic
Many retailers are suffering from the protracted pandemic and related regulatory restrictions and recommendations, as well as the changes in consumer behaviour caused by the pandemic. Many companies have used up all their emergency financial resources.
As part of the exit plan, the Finnish Commerce Federation expects the government to take action in sectors affected by the pandemic, such as speciality goods trade and foodservice wholesale trade, which have been severely affected by the closure of restaurants.
The pandemic has forced companies to look for new ways to do business, which may show up in a skills shortage among laid-off personnel. One effective way to overcome skills shortages could be to provide training aid to workers that have been laid off during the pandemic. In addition, as a coronavirus exit measure, there should be the possibility, on a local level, to experiment with increasing Sunday working hours within the speciality goods trade. This legislative experiment can then be used to assess the effects of such a change on the company’s competitiveness and employment.
For many specialised SMEs, these are critical times when it is of paramount importance to enter the domestic and international e-commerce market. This process should be encouraged, for example, by expanding the funding of Business Finland’s e-commerce programme and ensuring its continuity.
The effects of the coronavirus crisis on the service sector should also be taken into account in taxation.
‘In order to support the service sector, consumer purchasing power must be safeguarded and no tax solutions or excise duties should be introduced that undermine that power. Also, no reforms or measures that will increase the administrative costs of service companies should be passed at this time,’ Kiviniemi states.
For further information, please contact: Mari Kiviniemi, Managing Director, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)50 511 3189, mari.kiviniemi(at)kauppa.fi