Long wait for shopping expected to drive sales

Merry making: Pavilion mall going all out to invite the Christmas cheer. — AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

PETALING JAYA: The risk of the Covid-19 Omicron variant is unlikely to dampen year-end holiday season sales as pent-up demand will see brisk business, say retailers.

Malaysia Retailers Association vice-president Datuk Ameer Ali Mydin said current footfall had gone up to 80% of pre-pandemic levels and sales too had risen to 70%.

“We expect, not discounting the Omicron variant, that sales will maintain at this level.

“We do not expect sales to go back to normal pre-pandemic levels simply because there are no tourists coming in. We have to depend on the domestic economy,” he said when contacted yesterday.

Ameer Ali said that as people are currently unable to travel into or out of the country, he expected to see better sales locally as people would have to travel and spend internally.

“It will be more domestically driven and should at least go back to about 80% to 90% of pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

With reports of the Omicron variant spreading globally, Ameer Ali commended the Malaysian government for responding cautiously, unlike other countries.

“I think our approach is the right one. We have to remain cautious and careful, but we must not go into a total lockdown that will cause serious economic destruction,” he said.

Malaysia Retailers Chain Association president Shirley Tay said retailers remain cautious with the emergence of the new variant but would not allow it to deter from their efforts to earn more during this season.

She said this period is when retailers maximise their sales.

Giant welcome: A big Christmas tree on display in the fountain area at KLCC park to mark the upcoming Christmas celebration. — FAIHAN GHANI/The StarGiant welcome: A big Christmas tree on display in the fountain area at KLCC park to mark the upcoming Christmas celebration. — FAIHAN GHANI/The Star

“The year-end and New Year festivities are always important seasons for retailers.

“Purchasing volume as well as frequency generally are higher than usual. We regard these periods as crucial to sell more merchandise,” she said.

Tay noted that retailers during this season would also embark on various promotional schemes to push for sales.

“Having said that, our members will continue to comply with the standard operating procedure (SOP) to minimise the risk of spreading the virus,” she said.

Malaysian Association of Hotels chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng said when the interstate travel ban was lifted in December last year, hotels saw a surge in bookings for the Christmas and New Year holidays where the average occupancy peaked at 43% over weekends.

“We are expecting (for this year) to be in the range of 40% to 50% average occupancy while average room rates are expected to be stagnant,” he said.

Yap pointed out that the Omicron variant is undoubtedly a cause of concern for the tourism industry as governments have been imposing fresh sets of travel curbs as a precautionary measure, although experts have yet to determine the actual impact and implications of the new variant and suggested the same public health measures be maintained.

“While the industry is hoping that the Omicron variant will not affect domestic tourism, particularly when it is not detected locally, the main concern as of now is on international travel curbs that would set reopening plans backwards.

“As we are all aware, the tourism industry cannot rely on domestic tourism alone, and we are in desperate need to restart and receive international tourists again,” he added.

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