A survey commissioned by research firm Kearney Middle East reveals that 52% of respondents in the UAE are comfortable to shop in a public place amidst the current circumstances, out of which 36% highlighted that they would do so with extreme caution. Almost a third (31%) of consumers responded that they would wait for at least a month and 18% preferred to wait until a vaccine is developed.
The most common concerns respondents have while shopping at a public location are the number of people at the store (41%), followed by other people not observing safety measures (36.9%), the possibility of being surrounded by those exposed to the virus (32.3%) and the location not complying to the safety measures (16.7%). Only 16% of respondents stated they have no concern whatsoever with shopping in public.
Although an ease of the movement restrictions was announced on April 24 in the UAE, 49% of respondents believe that these are temporary, with 29% being unsure if the constraints will be set again and 22% being positive that there will be no further restrictions. Most of those surveyed (54%) believe normalcy will not return at least for the next four-nine months. When asked what they would do first if the COVID-19 situation were to disappear, only 8% of the respondents indicated shopping as an immediate activity they want to partake in, with most consumers (44%) being more interested in visiting family and friends.
“This week we have seen new movement restrictions put in place by the government. However, malls and stores will continue to operate at 30% capacity. While we are edging towards normalcy with caution, there is still a level of uncertainty among the public on when the dust will settle,” observed Debashish Mukherjee, partner & head – consumer industries and retail practice, Kearney Middle East.
When asked about current money-saving habits, over half (58%) of respondents in the UAE revealed they saved at least 25% more during the peak of the movement restrictions compared to pre-pandemic times. While the majority did save, 22% saved less than they did previously and 20% did not save at all.
When questioned about expenditure, only 19% are willing to spend on non-essential items, with the majority (37%) preferring to not spend during the current circumstances. Over a quarter (26%) highlighted that they will continue to save post the lockdown period.
“The development of COVID-19 has affected the income of many individuals globally, which has forced them to rethink their spending. What was considered ‘disposable income’ prior to the pandemic is being reprioritised and there is a potential long-term behaviour change that is likely to emerge as people think harder about their financial planning for the future and the need to have emergency savings,” added Mukherjee.
Even though consumers are generally reluctant to spend on non-essential items during the current circumstances, clothing and shoes as well as nutritional products were highlighted as the top categories that respondents are most likely to spend on with the stores being open at 23.2% each. This was followed by electronics (18.2%), home decoration (12.6%), beauty products (11.6%) and jewellery (3%). However, when asked about the products they would be most comfortable to spend on online, electronics (33%) was the most popular category, followed by clothes and shoes (21%), beauty products (17%), nutritional products (17%), home decoration (15%) and jewellery (11%).
“From our preliminary assessment, we can see that discretionary spending by consumers is lower than pre-pandemic times and may persist in the short term, as consumers are unwilling to spend and are still not entirely comfortable with going out and shopping publicly. This mirrors what is going on in the countries that have relaxed restrictions such as China and Germany. Additionally, with further federal guidelines on commercial activity that has restricted malls and stores to host any sale promotions for non-essential products, we anticipate to see more people turn to e-commerce as people shop from the safety of their homes and online retailers start to incentivise people with discounts,” Mukherjee concluded.