By Neil Halligan
When UAE residents were asked what they would do first if the Covid-19 situation were to disappear, most said they would visit family and friends
Half of UAE residents are still not quite comfortable about going out to shop during the current Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new survey.
The initial lockdown restrictions in Dubai have been eased in recent weeks, allowing residents to leave their homes during certain hours, to go shopping in malls, visit restaurants, as well as excercise in their locality.
For the duration of Eid Al Fitr holidays, the majority of people across the UAE are allowed to leave their homes between 6am and 8pm, while malls are open from 9am to 7pm until further notice.
Despite the easing of restrictions, a new survey has revealed that people in the UAE are still cautious about leaving their homes, with almost a third (31%) of consumers saying they would wait for another month at least before venturing out to a retail outlet.
A further 18% said they didn’t plan to go shopping at all, and preferred to wait until a vaccine is developed.
The survey, commissioned by Kearney Middle East, found that a slight majority of residents (52%) are comfortable shopping in public places during the current circumstances, with a third of those doing so “only with extreme caution”.
The survey, which was conducted just after the restrictions were eased on April 24 (April 30 to May 11), asked about the most common concerns people have while shopping.
Top of the list was the number of people in the store (41%), followed by other people not observing safety measures (36.9%) and the possibility of being surrounding by those exposed to the virus (32.3%).
There were also concerns about the store not complying with the safety measures (16.7%). Just 16% said they have no concern whatsoever with shopping in public.
Looking to the future, the survey asked about how long it was expected that the restrictions would remain in place, most (54%) believe normalcy will not return at least for the next 4-9 months.
When asked what they would do first if the Covid-19 situation were to disappear, only 8% of the respondents said shopping was at the top of the list, with most consumers (44%) being more interested in visiting family and friends.
“While we are edging towards normalcy with caution, there is still a level of uncertainty among the public on when the dust will settle,” said Debashish Mukherjee, partner & head, Consumer Industries and Retail Practice at Kearney Middle East.
When asked about current money saving habits, over half (58%) revealed they saved at least 25% more during the peak of the movement restrictions compared to pre-pandemic times.
When questioned about expenditure, the largest proportion (37%) said they preferred to not spend on non-essential items during the current circumstances, while over a quarter (26%) said they will continue to save post the lockdown period.
“The development of Covid-19 has affected the income of many individuals globally which has forced them to rethink their spending,” said Mukherjee.
“What was considered ‘disposable income’ prior to the pandemic is being reprioritised and there is a potential long-term behaviour change that is likely to emerge as people think harder about their financial planning for the future and the need to have emergency savings,” he added.
Mukherjee said from their preliminary assessment, discretionary spending by consumers is shown to be lower than pre-pandemic times and may persist in the short term, as consumers are unwilling to spend and are still not entirely comfortable with going out and shopping publicly.
“This mirrors what is going on in the countries that have relaxed restrictions such as China and Germany,” he said.
“Additionally, with the further federal guidelines on commercial activity that has restricted malls and stores to host any sale promotions for non-essential products, we anticipate to see more people turn to e-commerce as people shop from the safety of their homes and online retailers start to incentivize people with discounts.”