By Anthony Dylan

Contrary to belief, things would never be the same again. It has been far too long since the pandemic struck in 2019. We are now feeling the effects since the first movement control order came about in March 2020. We are nearing the last leg of 2021 and it would seem that this year has been far worse than last year.

Many of us would have gotten used to working from home and wonder what it was like to yet again go for social events. Going for planned lunches and dinners would be an activity we most anticipated other than going back to our hometowns. We can only prepare ourselves for that to happen again; hopefully in the not so distant future.

Time has flown us by rather swiftly. It felt that it was so long ago when being normal was what we considered what life used to be. I am sure this would soon be part of history books or chatter amongst those who experienced the full brunt of it or part of it in the decades to come. I wonder then, how would life be like?

When we look back when some form of movement easements were allowed last year; we realized that things never went back to normal. We had some easing from May till October last year before we had a spiral downwards again leading towards more restrictions.  This year, we only had half of January and parts of March till May to enjoy such privilege.

Retail would be one which would never be able to achieve what it used to be before. There would be a change in shopping habits requiring a new way for street shops and even shopping centres to draw the same popularity as before. Even if near normalcy was to occur, it would take no shorter than 2 years after the country has reached their target of full inoculation for 80% of the adult population.

That is a long time for one to wait. Do not forget that the current generation would age and the younger generation would have cemented their life to their devices. I believe quality over quantity would prevail and affordability being the key pivot in making any decision. Many of us would have run out of savings to pull through and many others would try to settle their debts which would have definitely risen for the past 2 years.

I believe that the slow death of retail and shopping centres as we all know it to be is inevitable. It is important to understand how the future shopper and consumer would be like. The 5 stages of Consumer Behaviour begins with a Need Recognition or Problem; Information Search; Evaluation of Alternatives; Purchase and finally, Post Purchase Behaviour. Then, you would also need to figure out the level of involvement and the level of differences of the choices. There are 4 types. The high level of both involvement and differences of choices would make it a “Complex Buying Behaviour” whilst a low level involvement and lower differences in choices would make it a “Habitual Buying Behaviour”. A low involvement high and differences in choices would make it a “Variety Seeking Buying Behaviour”. Lastly, a high involvement and low differences in choices would make it a “Dissonance Reducing Buying Behaviour”.

Understanding a consumer’s behaviour would be paramount. Businesses would have to return to the drawing board and distance themselves from things which were and concentrate on how things are and would be. Otherwise any denial would hasten your own demise.

Cinemas are another which could be in danger of being forgotten. With available content not being able to be shown in our cinemas, one wonders if the exhibition of films can survive on screenings alone. Perhaps the operators would soon add to their offering and provide more than just a space for screenings but to also include classy restaurants and non- traditional services. As it is today, Netflix, HBO Max and Disney Plus have provided many of us the added choice for exclusive movies and content. What is shown in the cinemas must be far superior in order for one to go to one just as before. Hence, why I think cinemas would evolve with their real estate use. Some have already started to do so.

There is also a change in eating habits and food courts seem to find it challenging especially with the situation where convenience is no longer the advantage. It worked well when people had to work in physical offices where the window to eat was narrow and the option for variety was required. I believe food courts would soon revert to being a strong player for kopitiam offerings with affordable pricing in order to differentiate. Portions would be smaller.

Fashion would likely be one where you would still go to but only if the brand is relevant. Relevancy would be dynamic and more so going into the future. When work habits change, so would the wardrobe be. I believe fashion and beauty care would pivot to being equally strong online and in store. Many of us have been avid users of Lazada, Shoppee and even the brand’s own stores. Logistics today is not as difficult or as worrisome as before. Hence, companies today would invest in their hubs and improve their reach strategies.

Even media consumption has changed. We have seen how many magazines leaving the scene and many newspapers leaving their physical footprint. Digital consumption was on the run to become the new normal before the pandemic. Today, the resulting near 2 year experience has now seen many having digital reach due to required expediency.

We can no longer yearn for the past. It has gone. We have to prepare for the future. We must admit that we can never end this war but can only find equilibrium. Things would never be the same. We have to live with the new virus and hopefully one day both can live without mortally harming the other.