How traditional trade in Asia is evolving

Date : 15 October 2018

Traditional stores go by many names: mom-and-pop stores, kiranas (India); warung (Indonesia); kedai runcit (Malaysia); sari-sari (Philippines). They include markets, street vendors and kiosks, and are a major feature of Asia’s grocery retail landscape. 

They’re also the specialist subject of Johann, one of our Singapore-based senior retail analysts. We asked Johann for his views on the traditional channel and the opportunities it presents for suppliers.

Q: How are traditional stores making themselves stand out? 

A: They’re known for providing the freshest produce. In fact, the traditional channel began when farmers’ markets started selling excess produce directly to consumers. Stores prepare products – like cheese – freshly every day or offer ranges shoppers can’t find elsewhere.

Offering personalised service is another way to be distinctive. Many traditional stores serve a small catchment area, so owners inevitably get to know their shoppers well. They can then offer advice, product recommendations and value-added services like free home delivery.

Q: What do shoppers like about the channel?

A: As well as the above, many shopkeepers are willing to sell loose products in smaller quantities. We’ve seen this flexibility across many product categories – rice, spices, dried goods, vegetables, biscuits, snacks. 

Shoppers can buy what they need, manage their spending and reduce wastage. It can also encourage them to sample a wider range of products. So, if you supply traditional stores, you should consider whether you can help provide this level of choice. 

Q: How does traditional trade compete with the rise of online shopping? 

A: It’s quick to recognise the benefits of modern innovations and adopt them to attract shoppers. In India, banks are giving traditional shopkeepers handheld payment devices that operate on a mobile network. In China, stores and even market vendors are increasingly accepting cashless payments by displaying a QR code. 

Traditional retailers are also improving their in-store environments. In Malaysia, we’ve seen stores with spacious, clutter-free aisles and attractive displays. Some stores in India have upgraded to include air-conditioning, bright lights and electronic tills.

Q: What’s the outlook for traditional trade in Asia?

A: Traditional trade forms 79-98% of the grocery market in Indonesia, India, the Philippines and Vietnam. We forecast that by 2022 it will still dominate these markets. 

However, the growth rate varies greatly across the region. We expect it to decline in Singapore and Japan over the next five years. 

Q: What’s the one thing suppliers need to know about the channel?

A: Traditional trade remains a vital part of Asia’s grocery retail market. You’ll need to continue investing in it, as it’s here to stay. 

Subscribers to IGD Asia can find more examples of best practice in traditional trade here

Asia’s FMCG market is the largest in the world, making it the number one growth opportunity for suppliers and retailers. We can help you trade successfully in Asian markets, and benefit from this growth, with our new IGD Asia service.