“COVID Curve in Grocery Retailing: The Seychelles Perspective”- An Insightful discussion by SLIM

The National Body for Marketing of Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) recently conducted yet another insightful knowledge sharing session as part of its “IGNITE” series. The webinar themed “COVID Curve in Grocery Retailing: The Seychelles Perspective”, featured Veronique Laporte, Chairperson, Seychelles Maritime Safety Authority and Former Chief Executive Officer, Seychelles Trading Company Ltd. Hosted by retail expert Charaka Perera, Executive Director Fuchsia Retail (S.A) Pte Ltd. Singapore, and EXCO member of SLIM, the webinar was held to provide the local community with a holistic and comprehensive understanding of the impact COVID-19 had on the retail sector.

Sharing her ideas, Veronique Laporte stated, “As a country that imports the majority of its consumer goods, Seychelles is facing a drastic change in its retail landscape. The longer the pandemic remains, the more challenges and the greater impact it will have on retailers of all sizes. COVID-19 has acted as an accelerant to shifting business models and consumer priorities. Although most of the retailers in Seychelles were not set-up with solid e-commerce facilities, they started to reach consumers and take orders
through social media platforms. For instance, most of the small-scale retailers have started using WhatsApp as a virtual platform to sell their goods. Both big and small players in the retail industry have seen the massive shift to home delivery and in-store pickup. I think in many ways the future of retail has arrived sooner than we thought. Today, online grocery shopping is in the spotlight. In order to survive in the market,
retailers should identify what customers need and deliver it because this crisis leaves them with no choice but to act.”

She also highlighted that the availability of resources is the key determinant of the retail sector of Seychelles. Since the retailers import most of the goods, the ones who have enough stocks make profits while the ones who aren’t able to restock their inventory are facing issues in meeting the consumer demand. In Seychelles, the crisis situation has caused a significant change in the supply chain as well. Instead of purchasing from a middleman, customers are now given the option to cut out the middleman and directly purchase from the seller.

Further discussing the grocery retail sector of Seychelles and its transformation during these unprecedented times, Veronique Laporte added that it is equally important to make sure that the retailers follow an ethical approach in doing their business. Although there are ample opportunities to exploit the consumer, conducting business in an ethical
way is a moral responsibility of retailers. Moreover, it was discussed how the consumers are trying to be self-sufficient by growing crops in their home gardens in a sustained effort towards alleviating the impact of COVID-19 on essential food security. Customers now tend to purchase essential goods in bulk as they try to avoid the frequency of physical contact as much as possible. Obtaining goods without stepping foot into a brick and mortar store is one of the most important factors for today’s consumers. She believes that these new consumer habits formed during the pandemic will become innate behaviour of consumers across the world.

Since Seychelles is mainly dependent on the tourism industry, the current situation has dealt a major blow to retailers whose target customers are tourists. Unlike essential goods sellers, they have no way to market their products. They share an overriding fear about the future as the revival of the tourism industry may take time.

Veronique Laporte ended the discussion mentioning that although these are challenging times if retailers can react with focus and purpose, they can bounce back stronger with better business models and forge a greater relationship with their customers.

Roshan Fernando, President SLIM stated, “As the National Body for Marketing SLIM has always been in the forefront to promote and nurture future Sri Lankan marketers through education, recognition, motivation and appreciation. By conducting the Ignite video series SLIM was able to introduce eloquent and informed speakers who discussed the effects and the ways to overcome the adversities of COVID-19. The grocery retailing business was one of the important topics reviewed with strategies to comply with the new normal behaviour of consumers. The thought provoking speech and the pragmatic strategies advocated by Veronique Laporte truly inspired marketers and business heads to take novel steps to restart their retail sales fields”.

SLIM is the National body for Marketing in Sri Lanka and has been promoting marketing excellence and elevating the status of marketing since 1970. SLIM also has received ISO 9001:2015 certification in recognition of its superior quality management system and ISO 29990:2010 for Learning Service Provider (LSP), providing non-formal education and training services.