COVID-19 Causes Dramatic Change in MENA Consumer Habits

The pandemic has accelerated the transition to online shopping, with 90% of GCC shoppers now preferring online purchasing over malls and crowded shopping streets.

  • By externalwire | June 27, 2020,12:36 pm
COVID-19 Causes Dramatic Change in MENA Consumer Habits

2020 was set to be a record year for retail in the Middle East. The six-month long Dubai Expo was supposed to attract shoppers from around the world and the region’s malls prepared for ever-increasing numbers of shoppers. The coronavirus has crushed all of this hopeful expectation, with lockdowns and curfews bringing sales through retail stores to a grinding halt.

Unforeseen changes

Throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr equal the Christmas season in Europe and North America. Shoppers flock to retailers for new clothes, festive food, and gifts for friends or family. But the COVID-19 epidemic meant closed mosques and few retailers outside of grocery stores allowed to operate.

These trends have created a make-or-break moment for many retailers in the region. Those who were already providing online sales, or were ready to make the transition, have come out as winners, while those lagging behind have struggled to survive.

Now that online shopping is no longer a necessity, with shops and malls reopening, it appears that consumers in the MENA region have structurally changed their consumer behavior. A study done by Ernst & Young (EY) revealed that 92% of shoppers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia had changed their shopping habits, with half of those considering it a “significant” change.

Altered paradigm

The EY survey showed a dramatically altered retail paradigm. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed signaled that in the coming two years they expect to do their grocery shopping online and 50% of correspondents said they will consciously reduce their amount of physical shopping to less frequent visits for larger purchases.

The retail landscape in the region is changing rapidly. This follows years of construction on new retail malls that hoped to generate a “casual shopping” experience, where trips to retailers is seen as a form of entertainment in itself. For malls and shopping centers the trend will precipitate a renewed focus on generating “experiences” for shoppers that they cannot have at home, mixing shopping with visits to movie theaters or culinary experiences.

Global e-commerce was worth $25.6 trillion in 2018 and the trend towards online shopping has since accelerated. Whether brick-and-mortar stores can again attract customers by providing new experiences remains to be seen as convenient online shopping is now the safer choice amid persistent worries over the global pandemic.

Related Articles

COVID-19-Induced Remittances Slump Hits Egyptian Farmers Hard
Egyptian farmers hit hard by COVID-19 remittances slump

COVID-19 has pushed Egyptians migrant workers who would normally support their families by working in GCC countries or Europe back home and into the fields, slashing remittance income for poor farming families and cutting agricultural output.

No Hajj for Indonesian Muslims in 2020
No Hajj for Indonesian Muslims in 2020

Indonesia’s Minister of Religious Affairs Fachrul Razi announced on Tuesday that in light of ongoing travel restrictions and COVID-19 fears, Indonesian Muslims will not be traveling to Saudi Arabia for the hajj pilgrimage this year.   “This was a very bitter and difficult decision,” Razi said during a televised press conference on June 2. “But we […]

World Struggles to Stand Against Israeli Annexation
World Struggles to Stand Against Israeli Annexation

An overview of the different responses Israeli annexation plans have provoked around the world

Saudi Arabia Uses Warning Shots to Rebuff Iranian Boats
Saudi Arabia Uses Warning Shots to Rebuff Iranian Boats

Three Iranian boats sailing in arch-rival Saudi Arabia’s waters ignored warnings and refused to respond to Border Guards instructions on June 25, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday night.