PETALING JAYA: Two retail groups have voiced confidence that conventional shopping is here to stay although an increasing number of Malaysians are adopting online shopping practices as lockdowns keep them indoors.
Retail Group Malaysia managing director Tan Hai Hsin and Malaysia Shopping Malls Association president Teo Chiang Kok told FMT they believed e-tail would never be able to totally replace brick and mortar outlets.
The numerous lockdowns that have been imposed this year have compelled both customers and retailers to adapt to restrictions. This has seen many businesses pivoting towards selling essentials online and many consumers embracing online shopping out of necessity.
“Many Malaysians are forced to learn how to use various apps to order goods and services during this period,” Tai said.
However, he added, this would not be “the only future of retailing” and pointed to increases in the number of crowds at shopping centres following the loosening of restrictions in June.
Given the problems that online shoppers still face, such as delivery delays, misrepresented products and concerns around bank fraud, Tan believes an “omni-channel” approach is the way forward, with physical and online retail platforms complementing one another.
“The main challenge is the complete integration of the two business formats, which would involve consumers being able to buy online and collect at the store or buy online and return to the store or buy at the store and return via mail,” he said.
Teo, while acknowledging that online retailers were gaining ground, said shoppers had also returned to shopping centres after the initial movement restriction was lifted.
“As of August, footfall was estimated at 75% of pre-MCO levels for malls overall, with some even doing better,” he said, but noted that the spike in Covid-19 cases in September saw foot traffic wane once again.
“Steadier footfall and shopping will only start to increase again when shopper confidence returns and the conditional MCO has been completely lifted.”
He points to online retailers branching out into physical flagships as an example of the importance of physical retail. “The fact remains that both online and physical shopping must cohere together to form new business models to stay ahead.”
He also expects malls to recover quickly once health concerns are quelled, saying online shopping could “never replace” the mall experience.
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