The changing consumer shopping habits in Saudi Arabia

03 August 2021 2 min. read
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Consumers in Saudi Arabia remain cautious in their spending, although hints of more activity might be around the corner. This is according to a new Kearney study, which reveals a host of other trends. 

Global consulting firm Kearney has been keeping close tabs on consumer behaviour in key GCC markets – studying expenditure levels and digging deeper for detailed breakdowns by category, channel, sentiment and motivation. 

In Saudi Arabia, nearly 60% of consumers expect the pandemic’s economic impact to linger for the next half a year – and their purchasing behaviour reflect this outlook. Activity remains below par across the board, and is heavily focused on necessities. Spending on essentials has declined by roughly 18% since the pandemic hit, while non-essential spending has dropped by more than 25%.

The changing consumer shopping habits in Saudi Arabia

The focus is on food, groceries, medication and health. Interestingly, spending within this category appears to be on the up, with 45% of Saudi consumers paying an extra buck for higher quality, health, and – in some cases – social responsibility. Meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables are the top categories that merit the highest jump – among roughly 60% of consumers. 

Non-essentials such as clothes and accessories have fallen out of favour through last year, although the first signs of promise are emerging. Casual wear, work wear, evening wear, active wear and footwear are all on the agenda for the next few months among 30% to 50% of consumers – as they prepare for an unrestricted lifestyle. 

Online remains king amid all these shifts. Lockdowns forced consumers to turn online for their purchases, although the convenience, range and cost-effectiveness has left them enamoured with a burgeoning ecommerce landscape. Helping this dominance is a higher comfort level with buying essential items online. 

For retailers, the trends spell a clear need for curating an online strategy, although some nuance might still be required – as explained by Kearney Middle East partner Adel Belcaid. “The physical store still plays a strong role across all categories which require the customer to touch, feel and try the product,” he said. 

“Retailers will need to adopt a differentiated strategy to make consumers feel safe in stores; consumers are heavily indexed towards alternative shopping options like click & collect, curb-side pickup and contactless in-store experience like self-checkouts; however, this will vary across markets and its essential for stakeholders, mall property owners and retailers to monitor the evolving face of retail to ensure they stay relevant.”