Intelligence

How The Logic’s subscribers think the COVID-19 pandemic has affected major companies’ long-term prospects

Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke speaks during a technology conference in New York in October 2019.
Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke speaks during a technology conference in New York in October 2019. Cate Dingley/Bloomberg via Getty Images
article-aa

Every month, The Logic asks subscribers how they feel about the prospects of 33 leading companies, including Canadian firms and public tech companies. We analyzed survey data collected over the months since the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic to see which companies subscribers are most optimistic about, and how sentiment changed as the virus froze the economy and transformed consumer behaviour. From betting on Big Tech to an online-grocery boom, here are nine key findings from The Logic Sentiment Index.

Purchase a subscription to read the full article.

By entering your e-mail you consent to receiving commercial electronic messages from The Logic Inc. containing news, updates, offers or promotions about The Logic Inc.’s products and services. You can withdraw your consent at anytime. Please refer to our privacy policy or contact us for more details.

Already a subscriber?

The full range of data is available here for Canadian public companies, here for Canadian private technology companies and here for public technology companies.

1. Shopify has the highest rating of any company

Days after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, analysts told The Logic that Shopify was well placed to weather the worst of an economic downturn. As predicted, the Ottawa-based firm has emerged as a clear winner in the “social-distance economy.” The firm became Canada’s most valuable publicly traded company in May after reporting better-than-expected financial results, making it the third tech company ever to top the Toronto Stock Exchange. 

Subscriber sentiment has grown more positive. Subscribers also ranked Shopify higher than any other public tech company in May, surpassing Amazon to take the top position. The firm’s rating peaked in June, with a score of 85.1 out of a possible 100 points—almost twice the average score for public tech companies that month.

The company attributed its financial success to small retailers and big brands alike taking to the platform amid COVID-19 closures, including food vendors using the platform for the first time. But Shopify has made several other strategic moves in the last few months that could contribute to its rising sentiment score. In April, the firm launched a shopping app, its first major consumer play. A group of volunteers from within the company also helped design the federal government’s COVID-19 exposure-notification app. The company’s score rose by 10 points in June after the partnership was announced. Its rating fell slightly following The Logic’s most recent survey, conducted between July 27 and 29. That week, as Shopify reported what one analyst called a “blowout” quarter, nearly doubling its revenue compared to the same period last year, 76 per cent of respondents rated the company’s long-term prospects “extremely favourably,” compared to 62 per cent two days earlier. 

Heading into 2020, The Logic subscribers predicted that Shopify and its CEO Tobi Lütke would have the biggest influence on Canada’s innovation economy. While circumstances have changed considerably since then, the firm has already had a banner year.

2. Facebook’s rating nosedived in June

In May, subscribers rated Facebook’s long-term prospects the most favourably since we started tracking company sentiment. The social media giant consistently ranked below other tech companies in The Logic Sentiment Index, but had been slowly gaining favour following a record low in March 2019. But in June, Facebook’s rating plunged a dramatic 31 points. The drop came as the company faced backlash for refusing to label or remove posts by U.S. President Donald Trump that incited violence against protesters following the police killing of George Floyd. Some Facebook employees participated in virtual walkouts and several resigned in protest over the company’s decision. Also in June, companies began pulling their advertising dollars from Facebook in protest against the company’s inaction toward hateful content on its platform. Canadian companies Lululemon, MEC and Arc’teryx joined the likes of Microsoft, Ford and Unilever in the ad boycott. In July, the company’s rating fell into the negative range after a survey that closed the day CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared in front of Congress in a landmark antitrust hearing.

3. Big Tech is otherwise winning

The Logic’s subscribers tend to view the prospects of the world’s biggest tech companies favourably, and sentiment has only improved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amazon, which since the start of the pandemic has been steadily hiring to meet increased e-commerce demand, had the second-highest rating of all the companies in The Logic’s most recent survey: 76.5 out of a possible 100 points. Only Shopify scored better. That’s despite the fact that Amazon has come under fire for its treatment of workers. At least eight warehouse employees have died from COVID-19, and workers in Toronto- and Calgary-area warehouses have tested positive for the virus. In May, Tim Bray, a prominent Canadian engineer and then-vice-president of Amazon Web Services, resigned, citing recent firings of employees who spoke out about the company’s record on COVID-19. Nonetheless, in June, the company saw its biggest rating bump since the pandemic began, gaining eight points over the previous month.

Methodology

The Logic conducted the survey online via a private link sent to subscribers by email. The 33 firms were grouped into three categories: Canadian private tech, Canadian public and public tech. Subscribers were asked to rate how they currently viewed the long-term prospects of each company. They were given six options which were scored as follows: extremely negative (-100 points), somewhat negative (-50 points), neither positive nor negative (zero points), somewhat positive (50 points), extremely positive (100 points) and unfamiliar (0 points). The points were added together and divided by the total number of points possible.

Microsoft has seen steady month-over-month improvement in sentiment since the beginning of the year, though its rating fell to pre-pandemic levels in July despite quarterly earnings that beat Wall Street expectations. Its cloud computing, gaming and video-conferencing divisions have grown during the pandemic. Ending the month with a rating of 62.5, it’s still well above the average score of 42 for public tech companies and 53 for FAANG companies. 

Netflix has seen the most significant growth of any FAANG company since the start of the pandemic, gaining 40 points between February and its peak month in June. Streaming has been significantly up amid stay-at-home orders—Netflix added nearly 16 million customers worldwide in the first three months of the year. Like all other major tech companies, the firm’s rating fell slightly following The Logic’s most recent survey.   

Tech stocks have been beating the broader stock market amid the pandemic. There is also a sense that the virus has granted Big Tech an opportunity to scrub its public image. Silicon Valley firms have stepped up to help governments manage the pandemic—for example, Google and Apple suspended their rivalry to work together on a COVID-19 contact-tracing API. Both companies ranked near the top of The Logic Sentiment Index in July, at 64.9 and 59.1, respectively.

4. Ritual’s score has fallen the most among private Canadian tech firms

Restaurant closures seem to have had a deep impact on the Toronto-based food-ordering app’s outlook. Between February and May, Ritual’s rating dropped -38 points, more than any other of the Canadian private tech companies in the survey during the same period. Before the pandemic hit, the firm—which had launched operations in Hong Kong, Germany, the U.K. and Australia—was the highest rated in its category. Three months in, after laying off more than half its staff and ceasing operations in Europe, its rating fell into neutral territory. The Logic’s subscribers were slightly more optimistic about the company’s long-term prospects in June, after the company raised $29.8 million from existing investors and launched a new digital ordering product in partnership with the City of Toronto. But much of that one-month growth was reversed when subscribers were polled in July.

5. Loblaw moves to the top of its class 

Most firms in this category have seen sentiment improve during the pandemic, but Loblaw is a clear winner. Between February and June, the rating of Canada’s largest grocer increased by 22 points, more than twice the average rise among Canadian public companies. 

The grocer saw its largest gain between March and April, following a surge in demand as consumers stockpiled household items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer. The company said sales skyrocketed in the last two weeks of March, growing $1.1 billion year over year to $11.8 billion in the first quarter of the year. During a conference call with analysts after releasing its financial results in April, Loblaw president Sarah Davis said the company’s first quarter was “a tale of 14 days, when the government offered their pandemic warning and suggested Canadians prepare for a long stretch at home.”

Loblaw made another strategic pivot in early May, expediting the launch of its next-day meal-kit delivery service as it was “well-suited for the current pandemic situation,” as The Logic reported. The soft launch came days after Sobeys began testing its own grocery-delivery service, part of an increasingly heated competition for the space. 

The company could also have experienced reputational gains after introducing a $2-per-hour bonus for front-line workers in late March. The company scrapped the pay bump in June, and said pandemic pay and $282 million in safety measures pushed its profits down in the second quarter of 2020. Union criticism over reversing the bonus and recent reports of unsafe working conditions appear to have dented subscriber sentiment during our most recent survey, where the firm’s rating fell 13.5 points to 46.6 from its June high.

6. Wealthsimple and the Big Five banks are neck and neck

Sentiment toward BMO, RBC, TD Bank, CIBC and Scotiabank has remained relatively stable throughout the pandemic. Subscribers generally view their long-term prospects somewhat positively, with an average score of 36.3 for the cohort during our most recent survey. Although most banks saw their ratings slowly drop month over month between February and May, they all saw a slight rebound as the Canadian economy began to reopen in June. 

Wealthsimple has been the highest rated of all Canadian private technology companies since March. The fintech’s rating peaked in June, with a 40.5 rating, before falling slightly to 36.9 in July, a score still slightly ahead of the 36.3 average for the major banks that month. The firm’s outlook has risen ahead of all Big Five banks twice during the crisis, in March and May. RBC had the highest rating of all banks when subscribers were most recently polled, at 43.

Countries including the U.S., U.K. and Australia have leaned on fintechs to help distribute government assistance payments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ottawa, however, rejected multiple proposals from fintechs offering similar help. The federal government has also delayed consultations on open banking scheduled for the spring until the fall at the earliest, to the disappointment of some fintech executives.

7. Telcos have seen modest gains since the pandemic began

While Rogers, Bell and Telus’ ratings fall within a few points of each other, Shaw’s rating is consistently lower. The country’s biggest telecoms have previously scored relatively low on The Logic’s sentiment index, amid reports that Canadians pay some of the highest mobile fees in the world. Early in the pandemic, all four telcos experienced reputation gains after reporting a surge in demand for their services as Canada’s workforce rapidly shifted online. As The Logic first reported in March, Videotron, Telus, Rogers and Bell suspended data limits on home internet plans as a growing number of Canadians started teleworking in response to COVID-19. While the telecoms started charging data overages again as of July 1, the benevolent move could have won them favour. 

Rogers and Shaw saw among the most significant drops between June and July. The decline also followed a shaky earnings report from Rogers, which saw double-digit declines in nearly every key financial metric. The firm finished the month with a rating of 22.9, a near return to its March score. 

Also, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains told The Logic in April his plan to require Rogers, Bell and Telus to cut wireless prices by 25 per cent in two years is “still consistent with government policy” despite COVID-19. The federal government released its first progress report last month, which found prices largely haven’t dropped at all. All four telcos saw their ratings drop in The Logic’s July survey, which closed the day after the report came out.

8. Canadian Tire has seen low ratings amid website capacity issues and a slump in gas sales

While subscribers consistently rate Canadian Tire’s prospects in the bottom half of Canadian public companies, it has spent most of the pandemic in the lowest spot. The company fell 17 points between February and March, diving briefly into the negative sentiment range. While it has since improved from that low, its rating was still eight points below the average for the category when our most recent survey went out in July. However, for the first time since the crisis began, it moved up from the lowest spot as Shaw’s and Rogers’ prospects fell.

The retailer has struggled to keep up with increased e-commerce demand that has overwhelmed its website capacity. The company saw earnings drop in its first two quarterly financial reports of the year, and is prioritizing a planned upgrade to its e-commerce sites.

9. Lightspeed’s rating is holding tight

The Montreal-based point-of-sale (POS) firm’s rating has hovered in the bottom half of all public tech companies since the pandemic began, finishing with a 16.5 rating in the month of July compared with a six-month average of 19.1. That’s slightly above the average ratings for Canadian private tech companies Element AI, Ritual and Article during the same period, but slightly below Wattpad and Wealthsimple, which scored 21.3 and 34.4, respectively.

Lightspeed’s rating has fallen significantly from a high of 59.1 in June 2019. That strong rating came on the heels of the company’s successful IPO in March 2019, strong earnings and stock market performance, and planned expansions in Europe and Australia. A year later, the company celebrated the one year anniversary of its public offering in the middle of a stock-market slump and a near-total collapse of the restaurant industry. Still, analysts told The Logic in late March that Lightspeed was well positioned to weather the worst of the pandemic. The firm is indeed proving resilient. It reported strong financial results in May and again in early August as merchants shifted to POS sales and returned to business following lockdowns. 

Sentiment rose eight points to 26.4 in June as the company started showing early signs of stability. Subscribers have not been polled since the firm announced its latest financials, or since The Logic reported that the firm and its CEO Dax Dasilva are being sued for allegedly stealing the tech used to launch the company.