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Online shopping surges with millions at home amid coronavirus crisis

Commercehub CEO Frank Poore joins Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi to discuss the dropshipping company's acceleration of e-commerce activity amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: Let's bring in CommerceHub CEO Frank Poore. Frank, thanks for taking a few minutes here. So everybody's trapped in their homes. What are they buying? What are they not buying?

FRANK POORE: Well, so folks are buying consumable products for certain. Everybody's looking for toilet paper and paper towels and hand sanitizers. But beyond that, we're seeing a lot of do it yourself kind of projects at home, things like paint and woodworking types of things. We're also seeing games and entertainment, the kinds of things you'd expect people to have.

Some of those will be one-time load-up types of items, but there'll also be other things that are ongoing and consumable, call them essentials. And essentials doesn't mean rubber gloves and masks. It means all of the things that you just need to kind of survive on a hunker-down mode.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Frank, Alexis here. Thanks for being with us. Talk to me about the health of the supply chain, especially for some of these high-in-demand products. I know I'm trying to go to the store very infrequently, but, when I go, the paper goods aisle is still not stocked. So how's it going for you? What's your personal experience at CommerceHub?

FRANK POORE: Well, we, at CommerceHub, connect a lot of the very largest retailers online in North America, along with marketplaces, to about 12,000 suppliers that ship various products, last year, to the tune of about $20 billion in revenue. So we've got a massive network of products, and so retailers are able to find different things from different channels and have them shipped from different points without actually taking possession of the inventory.

BRIAN SOZZI: Frank, you work with a lot of these big retailers, Walmart, Amazon, even Facebook, eBay, Instagram. In this type of environment, who is winning the battle for consumer dollars?

FRANK POORE: Honestly, it's anybody who has the products that can confidently tell you when you're going to get them. I'm sure some of us have ordered from folks we've never even heard of. But they had a good rating, and so we took the chance.

But for the most part, you're going to go with a trusted brand, if you know who they are and they have it, if they've got a store that allow you to do curbside pickup or they'll do deliver to your door. I'm starting to see a lot of things that retailers had been doing, very digital-first and digital-forward retailers who had built buy online, pickup at-curb, pickup in-store. There's drive ups. These companies are winning today because it's a much more contactless environment.

BRIAN SOZZI: Frank, I've always looked at CommerceHub as the plumbing of many retailers, really focusing on the logistics of the retail sector. What's your sense of the US economy right now? Does it-- I get it, a lot of people are buying toilet paper and Clorox wipes. But does it feel like, to you and the data you're seeing, a prolonged recession, minor recession, garden-variety recession? How do you see it?

FRANK POORE: I want to remain optimistic that things are going to come back. I think it's going to realistically take time. There's going to be waves of these things. And to your earlier program, I think there's going to be a while before people feel confident to go do things.

Even if it all opened up tomorrow, I don't know how many of us would come out of hiding. We're going to have to all feel confident. Something's going to have to be in place.

So I think this particular kind of situation is going to persist for some time, and so we have to get used to a bit of a new normal. I think we'll find ways to socialize distantly and in some fashion. But I think we have to get used to this for a bit of time.

And what that does to the economy is all a function of how long that goes on. You can't print your way out of an economy ultimately. I don't believe that at all.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Frank, how has this pandemic changed your company? And what are some of the unique challenges that you're experiencing right now?

FRANK POORE: Right now, we're actually running full bore. We've set up systematically, and I give credit to my teams for being able to do this. We've had employees that have wanted to work from home, and so we were in the mode of testing different things. And so we, very quickly and easily, quite honestly, transferred from a services perspective into a work-from-home.

So we haven't really missed a beat there, and I think work provides a nice distraction from a lot of what's going on. Obviously, e-commerce is up, so we're busy. We're getting 20% more volume in terms of calls coming in and participants. As I said, we've got a network of 12,000 suppliers shipping, and so there's still a lot of activity going on.

So kudos to my team for being able to pull this off and continue to support the supply chain. It's an important mission, honestly, for us.

BRIAN SOZZI: All right, let's leave it there. CommerceHub CEO Frank Poore, stay busy, and we'll talk with you soon.

FRANK POORE: Take care, thanks.