7-Eleven, Family Mart and other convenience stores are no longer operating 24hrs/day to comply with the curfew. Major supermarkets have installed plastic shielding at their check-outs and have footprint markers on the floor so that customers can keep a safe distance from each other when in check-out lines.
Overall, things seem to be settling as suppliers and retailers adjust to the new “business as usual”. The government is monitoring the retail prices of eggs, rice, personal hygiene products and other staples to rein in on price gouging. Tissue and toilet paper seem to be back on shelves with only hand sanitizer and rubbing/spraying alcohol remaining in short supply. Suppliers we speak to don’t cite any major issues with their supply chains and raw materials sourcing. Kimberly Clark, however, has mentioned some disruption in sourcing pulp from Malaysia.
Only established food outlets within malls, as well as stand-alone restaurants, are allowed to operate under the MCO between the hours of 8 am – 8 pm by offering only take-out and deliveries.
Grocery and pharmacy store trading hours are also limited to 8 am – 8 pm. Only one person per household is allowed to travel to make grocery purchases. This is enforced quite strictly, as there are roadblocks along the streets. If there is more than one person in a car, the driver is penalized.
Initially, there was quite a lot of “panic buying” and in most stores, the shelves were depleted within the first few hours of opening. Replenishing stock then got challenged further when the MCO was imposed on March 18th, as there was a huge disruption to transportation logistics which affected supply chains. Things have now settled thanks to some improved and clearer communication from the government and most outlets are reasonably well-stocked except for bread, eggs, toilet paper, and instant noodles that tend to sell out by the end of each day.
Shoppers are required to practice social distancing and must wear face masks when entering stores. Many stores control the number of shoppers permitted inside at any one time. Checkout counters apply a 1-meter distance for shoppers to stand apart as they queue.
There is no data yet as to how many shoppers have shifted to online purchases of grocery items, although general market feedback is that there is increased traffic of online purchases. Many of the grocery chains that have invested in online infrastructure, especially TESCO and Jaya Grocer, will benefit from this shift. The main online shopping platforms in Malaysia, Lazada and Shopee, have reported increased volumes of purchases. Shopee, in particular, is popular amongst shoppers for grocery as well as health and beauty products.
Cooking oil, instant noodles, rice, sugar and cooking seasoning are food categories experiencing high demand. Soap, detergents and vitamin supplements are non-food categories being purchased in high volumes. To control panic buying, many retailers are limiting the amount of these items that can be purchased at any one time. Retailers are securing supplies of basic food and cleaning products as a first priority, and manufacturers are starting to ramp up late night and weekend deliveries as well as increase the amount of Direct-to-Store deliveries.
“Business goes on of course, but the discussions we are having with our retailers are mostly restricted to certain categories. Household cleaning and anything to do with sanitization (demand) has at least doubled. We are fortunate in that we have government exemptions to keep producing as we are considered an essential producer. This means there are no restrictions on production, supply lines or logistics”. Indonesian manufacturer
Ramadan, which will take place for a month starting on April 24th is the biggest trading period of the year as there are large family celebrations once the fasting month is over. Even though travel restrictions and prohibitions on large gatherings could limit the ability of many Indonesians to celebrate the same as they would in other years, suppliers and retailers are nonetheless bracing themselves for an uptick in demand for festive shopping. “It is really unfortunate that the impact of COVID-19 is going to be felt during our largest shopping season. This impacts our industry more than in other places”. Indonesian retailer
In terms of health and safety measures, most retailers are checking their staff’s body temperatures and capping the number of shoppers that can be in the store at any one time as well as ensuring that they maintain a wide distance while lining up to pay. There is increased traffic for online delivery sites and some bricks and mortar retailers such as Foodhall are allowing shoppers to phone in orders with delivery taking place 4-5 days later.
“Overall, modern trade is experiencing growth, but it is not consistent across the board. Some cities are seeing small format/convenience growing tremendously, and yet in others we are seeing reduced traffic. About 30% of supermarket and small format businesses are choosing to shut down rather than trade because they are concerned about safety and the real potential of looting. There are also others, in particular those within shopping centres, that have significantly reduced traffic because shoppers are avoiding incidences where they have to be exposed to a lot of other shoppers”. Indonesian supplier
Retailers have been scrambling to source stock to fulfill the demands of panic buying of certain items and are also dealing with shortages of non-essential items that the government has placed production and import restrictions on. With a lot of public transportation halted, the production of essentials is impacted by the inability of workers to get to production and distribution facilities unless they live within walking distance.
Food and pharmacy stores are open and for the most part queuing seems to be quite orderly. Those consumers who can afford it are moving towards ordering items online.