Encouraging signs for retailers as consumers head back to the shopping mall: PwC survey

Consumers shopping more at bricks-and-mortar stores as they seek ‘sensory and social experience’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 3:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 11:04pm

Retailers who have been blighted by declining sales at their bricks-and-mortar stores have a reason to smile, as consumers who used to view it as a chore are now back to enjoying it, according to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey.

“Physical shopping is, in fact, not falling out of favour as an activity,” the consultancy’s survey of 22,000 online shoppers in 27 territories across the world found.

The number of shoppers who opted to shop at physical stores at least once a week started to increase since 2015, after seeing five years of decline since 2010, when the survey was first launched. PwC said one of the reasons for the rise was because of shoppers’ need to seek “sensory and social experience”.

“By 2014, only 36 per cent of respondents said they shopped at bricks-and-mortar at least weekly. But since then we have seen increases in weekly bricks-and-mortar shoppers, from 40 per cent in 2015 up to 44 per cent in this year’s survey.”

Traditional retailers that have been struggling with their physical stores’ performance will be pleased by the findings, but the move by some companies to close stores will go ahead as planned.

The Hong Kong-based clothing brand Esprit said earlier this year that it would close more than 40 “heavy loss-making” shops in Europe after it reported a net loss of HK$954 million (US$121.9 million) for the six months ended December.

Similarly, Swedish clothing giant Hennes & Mauritz announced in January that it expected to close 170 shops in 2018, the most the company planned to shut in at least two decades.

Even as physical stores made a comeback as a consumption channel, the PwC survey found that purchases made via personal computers fell from 27 per cent to 20 per cent over a six-year period from 2013 to 2018, while purchases from mobile phones increased from 7 per cent to 17 per cent over the same period.

The survey’s findings support the views of China’s Ministry of Commerce, which expects offline shopping to grow stronger in 2018.

According to Gao Feng, a spokesperson for the ministry, the growth in 2017 sales volume of physical stores including department stores, supermarkets and speciality stores, was significantly higher compared with 2016, and that he expected the trend to continue in 2018.