Brick & mortar remains strong amidst pandemic

Kim HoPR Manager
May 27, 2021, 3:40 AM GMT+0

  • Eight in ten (80%) Singaporeans have bought shopped online in the past three months, trailing behind 85% who have shopped in-store
  • Clothing is the item people most prefer to purchase in-store
  • A third (33%) say adhering to social distancing measures is a barrier to shopping at brick & mortar stores
  • The main motivation for online shopping is doorstep home delivery

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on shopping attitudes and behaviours globally. While shopping has shifted online during the pandemic, consumer preference for brick-and-mortar remains high. YouGov’s latest whitepaper ‘​International Omni-Channel Retail Report 2021: Shopping in the pandemic and the implications for the future’ looks at shopping behaviours amongst Singaporeans to understand the cross-channel interplay between online and brick-and-mortar outlets, as well as motivations and barriers between these two types of retailers.

Over eight in ten (85%) Singaporeans have purchased something from a brick & mortar store in the past three months. Brick-and-mortar appears to be the go-to method for purchasing everyday essential items, such as household food & drink (55%), personal care items (41%), household cleaning supplies (37%) and medicine (30%). Clothing (33%) is the only discretionary item in the top five most purchased things in-store.

Online shopping lags behind in-store shopping, with eight in ten (80%) buying something online in the past three months. Conversely, online retail channels are the preferred channel for discretionary items such as clothing (39%), footwear (19%) and furniture / home décor (14%). Everyday items unsurprisingly are the most purchased items in both categories. Two in five (39%) have stocked up on household food & drink online in the past 90 days. Very few consumers shop exclusively at one channel or retailer – four in five (80%) shop both online and in-store, 13% shop entirely in-store and 7% shop entirely online.

Despite the growth of online retail, there are still many shoppers that want to buy through brick-and-mortar outlets. YouGov asked Singaporean consumers about channel preferences for one specific and exceptionally large category—clothing. We then compared their actual shopping behaviour for clothing with what they wanted to do, to see how actions compared to desires. When asked which category shoppers most would prefer to buy in person, clothing came up on top (43%), followed by footwear (40%). However, when compared to the data that shows only a third (33%) have bought clothing from a brick & mortar store in the past three months, this suggests an optimism for brick & mortar stores looking forward – that after the pandemic ends consumers will return to the shopping channel they prefer.

This belief that shoppers will return to in-person shopping could be supported by looking at the barriers Singaporean consumers say are keeping them from shopping in-store. A third (33%) selected ‘adhering to social distancing guidance and / or avoiding public interactions’ as a reason for being dissuaded from buying things in-store. The main barriers according to consumers however are the lack of offers / discounts and the inconvenience of visiting a physical store (both 46%), followed by accessibility (30%), lack of physical stores in their vicinity (27%), lack of product selection / variety (25%) and parking (23%). For those over the age of 55, almost a third (31%) say having to find parking is a reason stopping them from shopping in-store.

The top motivations for people to visit a brick & mortar store are in-line with data showing higher preference to buy clothing in-person versus online, which are being able to physically experience a product (65%) and the ability try things in store (59%). Other motivations are speed of purchase (43%) and finding it easier (39%). Three in ten (30%) also say they trust physical stores more than online stores.

This lack of trust for online retailers is also reflected in the barriers identified by Singaporeans in shopping online. Almost two in five (38%) have concerns about personal information and data security. Amongst those over the age of 45, this jumps to 45%. Other reasons why one might not be keen to purchase from an online retailer is the delivery charges (55%), the inability to physically experience the product (51%) and product return policy (45%).

There are however, plenty of incentives to shop online, such as home delivery (63%), promotional offers (59%), variety of products available (39%) and product details & descriptions (34%). About half (46%) also say it is easier to purchase things online, and amongst those aged 18 to 34, this jumps to three in five (59%).

***Results based on 1,013 Singaporeans surveyed on YouGov Profiles