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Virtual shopping remains favorable in 'new normal'

Jessicha Valentina
Jessicha Valentina

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, July 16, 2020  /  03:31 pm
Virtual shopping remains favorable in 'new normal'

Protect and serve: Shop attendants wear face shields at a shopping mall in Serpong in Tangerang, Banten. (JP/R. Berto Wedhatama)

This article is part of The Jakarta Post’s "Forging the New Norm" series about how people are adjusting to the new realities of COVID-19 in Indonesia.

Fashion retail is one of the industries that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. With many viewing fashion as non-essential during the ongoing health crisis, international brands such as Zara and GAP experienced profit losses in the first quarter of 2020.

Similar to other industries, how fashion retailers conduct business has been transformed by the outbreak and the onset of the so-called new normal. If earlier this year most retailers still relied on physical stores, the pandemic has forced them to change and adapt to the digital world.

Local fashion brands Cottonink and SARE Studio were no strangers to the world of e-commerce, as both brands started their businesses online. The former kicked off its business on Facebook a decade ago, while SARE Studio uses a website to sell its products. As of now, Cottonink and SARE Studio have also integrated with online marketplaces, such as Tokopedia and Shopee, as their sales channels.

During this pandemic, both brands felt the advantages of using online channels.

SARE Studio cofounder and creative director Putri Andamdewi told The Jakarta Post that the company saw online platforms as the future of retail business and the COVID-19 outbreak proved it right.

Putri said that when most offline businesses were closed following the implementation of large-scale social restrictions (PSBB), which started in Jakarta on April 10, SARE Studio was not affected. Its sales even saw an increase. 

Cottonink brand and marketing director Ria Sarwono said the brand also saw an increase in online sales. She concluded that customers were bored with their daily routines at home and wanted something new to boost their mood, which led them to buy new clothes online.  

While most local brands have a firm footing in online marketplaces, lifestyle retailer PT Mitra Adiperkasa (MAP) has only started to get familiar with the channel.

MAP senior vice president Irawati said during a virtual media gathering that the retail giant had been thinking about going digital for quite some time, but the pandemic finally made it realize the plan.

The company, which holds the license for multiple brands, including Zara, Topman, Topshop and Lacoste, actually has its own website. However, customers can now also find its brands on Tokopedia, Shopee, Blibli and Lazada.

Irawati said that opening up to marketplaces was among MAP’s efforts to stay connected with customers.

E-commerce platform Pomelo Fashion also earned an advantage from the pandemic. The platform’s CEO and cofounder, David Jou, said the company saw its number of new customers double following the acceleration of e-commerce in the region.  

Fashion expert Syahmedi Dean said e-commerce could be considered the best solution when the customers were faced with social distancing protocols.

“The trend will continue as people will be less interested in going to public places,” he predicted.

From a customer’s point of view, Jakarta resident Devina Heriyanto considered online marketplaces a convenient place to shop, saying that no human interaction and the availability of a shipping tracker and complaint section were among the advantages of using the platforms.

Devina, who has spent more on fashion items online during the pandemic compared to the precoronavirus days, said she was still reluctant to purchase clothes in physical stores.

“I imagine that it must be a hassle because we need to wear face masks and can’t touch the items in accordance to health protocols,” she said, adding that her favorite online shops had mentioned that customers were not allowed to try on clothes.

Read also: Consumers wary of visiting shopping centers despite relaxed rules: Survey

Embracing the change, retaining the existing

But amid the popularity of e-commerce, physical stores are still deemed promising.

Pomelo Fashion, for example, is set to open an outlet in Central Park shopping mall in West Jakarta in November.

Jou said the pandemic allowed Pomelo to expand to promising locations at fair rental prices.

Meanwhile, Japanese clothing brand UNIQLO has yet to offer online services, although it has been using social media and a website for marketing purposes.

“Our customers can get the latest information about UNIQLO collections and promotions through our social media accounts and website,” said UNIQLO Indonesia public relations manager Stefanie Saragih.

As shopping malls have reopened, fashion retailers are now ready to welcome customers with health precautions, which include physical distancing measures and cashless payments.

Stefanie said UNIQLO mandated 1.5-meter distances between customers and staff in stores.

Along with face masks, face shields and hand sanitizers, which are mandatory for their staff, MAP also conducts frequent cleaning and disinfecting at all stores.

For fittings, Cottonink allows customers to try on clothes with various protocols.

Ria said all clothes were steamed before and after customers tried them on.

“We request all customers to use hand sanitizer before and after trying on the clothes. After a customer tries a product, we will immediately separate it and put it on hold for a period of time before putting it back on display,” she said. (wng)

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