Six in 10 Mena consumers expect the way they shop will change post Covid-19

More than half of respondents in an EY survey say they will value quality of products most in the post-coronavirus phase

Shops within Souk Khabeer, in the old part of Bur Dubai. Nearly 39 per cent of Mena respondents said they will value affordability in the post-coronavirus phase. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Fifty-eight per cent of consumers in the Middle East and North Africa expect the way they shop will change over the next one to two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new survey.

More than half of respondents said they will value “quality” of products most in the post-coronavirus period, EY said in its Future Consumer Index survey, which analysed the impact of the outbreak on consumers’ shopping habits. About 44 per cent and 39 per cent of those polled said they will value health and affordability, respectively, while shopping.

“Changes that were expected to come upon us gradually over the next half decade or so will now be forced on both consumers and companies in the immediate future,” the report released on Sunday said.

“Covid-19 has done something that no amount of advertising by brands could do - it has made consumers change their preferences. This will continue to influence beyond [the post-coronavirus] phase and future consumer consumption patterns.”

The EY report, which surveyed 2,263 consumers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the Arab world’s largest economies, said that Covid-19 has accelerated changes within the retail sector's operating models.

Retailers are now increasingly focusing on e-commerce, supply chain, consumer engagement, risk assessment and employee management practices to snag a higher market share.

“As the pandemic has influenced changes in behaviour and consumption, consumers have started rethinking,” said Ravi Kapoor, Mena consumer advisory leader at EY.

“The focus for the retail sector now should be on transforming to succeed in a new business landscape. Companies can take certain steps to anticipate the future, understand the changes, explore the market and respond to the opportunities effectively.”

Nearly one-third of the individuals surveyed plan to reassess their living costs, minimise spending and change the way they shop due to Covid-19.

A sign outlines rules for visitors going to At The Top, Burj Khalifa. Reem Mohammed / The National
A sign outlines rules for visitors going to At The Top, Burj Khalifa. Reem Mohammed / The National

However, about 23 per cent - a segment that consists of young working population - expect to be better off financially over the next year and are optimistic about shopping more online in the next one to two years.

“Changes in consumer behaviour that were expected to happen gradually, such as the shift from brick-and-mortar to online shopping, have been accelerated,” Ahmed Reda, EY’s Mena consumer leader, said.

“The pandemic and its retail implications will continue to influence future consumer consumption patterns.”

Mena consumers expect to spend more on specific categories once the pandemic is over, with 43 per cent predicting they will spend more on fresh food, 34 per cent looking to spend more on household items and 32 per cent spending more on personal care.

When asked about how quickly they believe normality will return once the pandemic is over, 55 per cent of individuals said it will be a matter of days or weeks, while 37 per cent expect it to be a matter of months.