It was to be expected that the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, which necessitated the imposition of circuit breaker measures, would affect retailers. However, what is heartening is how they have sought to transform challenge into opportunity. Some of the more traditional retailers, too, accelerated their plans to go online and have even begun to ride on well-known e-commerce platforms. Such platforms allow them to not just promote their products, but in a number of instances, to also promote their e-vouchers that bring customers back to physical stores that have now re-opened. The vouchers make the interesting point that, while more consumers turned increasingly to shop online during the circuit breaker period, many did not revert to their previous habits after the reopening. Rather, they remain habituated to online shopping. The promotion of e-vouchers now can attract them to return to stores.
Blurring the line between online and offline shopping is the new name of the game, and retailers are adapting to it rapidly. A report in this newspaper in May predicted the cascading effects of change. Appearing at a time when the circuit breaker led to most stores being shut, the report said bluntly that retailers had two options: adapt or die. Industry observers believed that when the dust settled finally, the retail landscape was likely to be less vibrant as smaller players disappear. Those that survive would have to respond to new shopping habits and major chains would have to innovate to avoid the fate of industry giants that were toppling overseas. That local chains are doing well reveals the nature of private enterprise here. Competitiveness is embedded in the genes of both business and society in a country to which the world does not owe a living. Adaptation, innovation and creativity are instinctive attitudes that have moulded the expectations of generations of Singaporeans. Covid-19 is proving the results.