Six in 10 UAE consumers prefer in-store grocery purchases

Shoppers like to buy food, furniture, cosmetics and clothes in person but are happy ordering books, electronics and sporting equipment online, survey finds

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 25 MARCH 2020. Joan Cadelin (Phil) an employee at Grandiose Supermarket on Beach rd in Jumeirah, prepares a home delivery order while wearing a protective mask and gloves to avoid the possible spread of disease while keeping food and necessities available to customers. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: None. Section: National.
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Six in 10 consumers in the UAE still prefer to buy their groceries in person despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with only two in 10 people opting to buy their food online, according to a new survey.

Other categories in which people prefer in-store purchases over online purchases include home furnishings, clothing, toiletries and cosmetics, according to research company Sunstream Research & Consulting.

This is despite an abundance of e-commerce offerings in the UAE.

"When it comes to a preference for digital purchasing – as opposed to in-store or a mix of online and in-store, books and magazines, electricals and electronics, and sporting equipment garner the greatest proportion of responses," Ibrahim Serafi, business head of Sunstream Research & Consulting, told The National.

"Those aged between 34 to 54 years assert significant inclination towards e-commerce in [the] said categories, with no less than 30 per cent in support of online transactions."


Although stay-at-home directives and other precautionary measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus spurred a surge in online shopping in the UAE, it appears that customers are reverting to brick-and-mortar shops as restrictions are eased.

There was a surge in internet searches for "groceries" in March and April, according to a Dubai Chamber report in June, citing UAE Google Trends data.

One in two women spend less on toiletries and cosmetics, versus one in three men

Online grocery shopping became the norm for many UAE consumers in March, reaching a peak of 100 during stay-at-home restrictions in April, according to Google Trends data.

Google Trends assigns a search interest value of between zero and 100, with 100 representing peak popularity for the term.

The Sunstream survey, which polled more than 300 UAE residents from July 9 to 27, found that spending in supermarkets and mini-marts increased significantly after the outbreak of Covid-19.

About 40 per cent of respondents spend more in supermarkets now, compared with the same time last year.

However, 73 per cent reported that they had cut back on purchases of clothing and accessories. This was especially true among those aged between 35 and 44 years.

“One in two women spend less on toiletries and cosmetics, versus one in three men. Similarly, a third of women and four in 10 men purchase fewer sporting items now,” Mr Serafi said.

Just under six in 10 respondents said their spending priorities had changed considerably due to the virus, while more than a quarter (28 per cent) reported slight yet notable differences in purchasing and 13 per cent said there was little or no change in their spending patterns.

However, conditions have been unfavourable for about half the survey sample since the coronavirus outbreak began.

Although 33 per cent said they were working normal hours on the same pay, 19 per cent said they were working normal hours but on a reduced salary, 16 per cent said they were no longer employed and 14 per cent said their work hours and pay had been reduced.

However, three in four men and women expect that economic and health conditions will improve in the next 12 months, the survey found.

Amazon is the most popular online shopping platform with more than seven in 10 people saying they used it, the survey revealed.

This was followed by Noon, popular with about half of the survey's respondents, and Instashop and Namshi, which were used by 20 per cent of respondents.

“Demand for quality products takes precedence over price among respondents, in spite of economic pressures and lower spend in retail categories,” Mr Serafi said.

"Almost six in 10 make this claim. That said, 94 per cent [of respondents] state that discounting and promotions are now more important than before."

Compared with a year ago, more people (36 per cent) said they now ordered more frequently from restaurants than those who said they had cut back on orders (30 per cent), the report said.

Zomato (58 per cent) and Talabat (56 per cent) were the most popular platforms, followed by Deliveroo (22 per cent) and Uber Eats (14 per cent).