GCC consumers intend to maintain altered shopping habits post lock-down

29 April 2020 Consultancy-me.com

A Kearney survey has revealed the shifting habits of UAE and Saudi consumers during the local lock-downs – with a significant proportion in each nation expecting to continue their new shopping methods into the future.

Conducted earlier this month following the introduction of social restrictions, a survey of regional consumers from management consultancy Kearney has found that some 95 percent of respondents in Saudi Arabia have shifted their shopping habits in response to the public shutdown, with more than two thirds stating their intention to maintain the altered habits once the global coronavirus pandemic subsides.

Kearney altogether surveyed 1,000 consumers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with comparatively 80 percent of respondents in the Emirates reporting a shift in their shopping habits, and closer to one half intending to continue the new approach once the government response measures are fully relaxed – with both countries this week starting to lift restrictions. The survey also revealed differing shopping preferences between the Gulf neighbours.

While consumers in the UAE have increased their online spending during the crisis, for both essential (57%) and non-essential (64%) items, they still as a leading preference chose to visit supermarkets for essentials, at a rate of 34 percent. Online shopping was the second most common channel, cited by 27 percent of UAE respondents, whereas online was the go-to channel for Saudi residents, with 37 percent reporting online as their favoured option.

GCC consumers intend to maintain altered shopping habits post lock-down

In Saudi Arabia, supermarkets placed in distant second, cited as a preference by under a quarter of local respondents. Neighbourhood grocery and convenient stores fared even more poorly, attracting just 16 percent (compared to 22 percent in the UAE) – despite 71 percent of Saudis also reporting a rise in spending on essential items such as groceries, food, healthcare and wellness products. Non-essential spending was also up.

For Saudi residents adapting to the lockdown, music and movies were the most popular category for non-essential purchases (54%), followed closely by education and books (51%) and toys and games (49%). In the UAE, the top ticket items were reversed, with education and books being the most popular (23%) ahead of music and movies (21%). Electronics was the third leading category, while toys and games were of little interest.

The most significant finding however was as to the intent to maintain new consumption habits. “Recent developments related to COVID-19 and measures being taken by governments to protect their communities around the world has impacted retail habits, which for the first time we have quantitative evidence to say, will stay in reasonable measure even after this phase is over,” commented Kearney’s Consumer Industries and Retail leader Debashish Mukherjee.

While similarly true for the UAE, on the Saudi findings in particular Mukherjee adds; “The survey highlights a growing demand for online shopping in Saudi Arabia, with consumers spending more on both essential and non-essential items during this period. This will undoubtedly shape the future of the industry by both accelerating the growth of online retail / e-commerce and driving a resurgence in local neighborhood supermarkets and stores.”