Why SG consumers are optimistic about economy despite COVID-19 fears

Consumer confidence is still high in Southeast Asia but health has increasingly become more of a top concern in recent times. This has been further accentuated by COVID-19, and according to a Nielsen report on the impact of the virus outbreak in Southeast Asia, healthcare products have seen "abnormally fast growth" since the outbreak.

While there is indeed a spike in the sale of healthcare and antiseptic products, there is also a decline in beauty and chocolate categories. Beauty products, chocolate and alcohol have been affected not just with shoppers dropping these categories from their weekly baskets, but also due to a  decrease in travel and going out. "Given the ever changing situation with COVID-19, there is no telling when the scales will move," the Nielsen report said.  

However, despite the challenging circumstances and disruption caused by COVID-19, Southeast Asia still shows strong consumer confidence, growing middle classes and increasingly digitally savvy shoppers. Hence, manufacturers and retailers will be pushed toward abundant opportunities to drive long term in growth in Southeast Asia.

In Singapore, Singaporeans are optimistic about the economic situation given how the Singapore government has managed the situation.

Post COVID-19 outbreak in January 2020, Singaporeans are optimistic that the country will be out of an economic recession in the next 12 months (54%). Nonetheless, continued shifts towards healthier purchasing from Singaporeans is likely, as 83% of Singaporeans surveyed who purchased multivitamins for the first time during COVID-19, intend to purchase it again in the next 12 months. 

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At the same time, amidst the growing pandemic concerns globally, and with new cases emerging, the fear of contracting COVID-19 is high amongst Singaporeans. About 84% Singaporeans are concerned on contracting COVID-19.

Similarly in Malaysia, a significant population of Malaysians fear contracting COVID-19 (90%) and this can be in tune with the global crisis. Regardless, post COVID-19 outbreak in January 2020, Malaysians are quite optimistic that the country will be out of an economic recession in the next 12 months (59%).  With the ongoing virus situation, Malaysians said they will continue to purchase health supplements (83%), hand sanitisers (77%) and surgical masks (67%). However,  among Malaysians, there is a slow adoption to online shopping, with 62% ordering grocery online, 52% ordering packaged foods and 49% household goods online in the next 12 months. 

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Thailand, on the other hand, has tourism impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. According to Nielsen, the impact however is estimated to be short-term. The Thais are optimistic that responses by the Chinese government is expected to alleviate long-term impacts, albeit the suspension of Chinese tours is expected to affect tourism sector in the short-term. Thailand saw a total of 39.8 million tourists in 2019, and expects a 6.7% dip this year. Meanwhile in the Philippines, consumer sentiment for most part of last year has been high in Q4 of 2019. Post COVID-19 outbreak in January, Filipinos, similar to Singaporeans and Malaysians, are optimistic that the country will be out of an economic recession in the next 12 months (56%).