The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market in Singapore saw significant changes brought about by shifting consumer behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers in Singapore re-prioritized their spending due to changes in income and lifestyle. Social distancing measures and the closure of non-essential physical stores and foodservice outlets moved commerce to grocery outlets and online. These trends would likely stay for the longer term, as the government remained cautious in loosening restrictions for a gradual return to normal.

The impact of lockdowns on the Singapore FMCG market

The economic fall-out from global and local lockdowns resulted in a decline in the average monthly household income in Singapore for the first time since 2009. Furthermore, global trade disruptions had led to price increases in imported goods, especially food products, of which Singapore imports 90 percent of what it consumes. Consumers, many facing tighter budgets and reduced incomes, underwent a basket reset, switching to private labels or store brands, and prioritizing essential goods. Products such as cosmetics saw a decrease in demand , whereas spending on health products increased.

The imposed lockdowns had also led to the creation of the homebody economy, as many Singaporeans were forced to spend more time at home. This resulted in increased demands for consumer goods that would either replicate or compensate for out-of-home experiences and activities. Singaporeans reported increased spending on alcoholic beverages , while the FMCG food segment saw value growth across all categories, as Singaporeans started to eat at home more.

Shifting consumer purchase channels for FMCG

The work from home mandate had resulted in a shift in the FMCG purchase channels. Supermarkets and kiosks located in the Central Business District (CBD), as well as the tourist hotspots in the downtown area, saw decreases in sales, as office workers stayed home, and tourists stayed away. Offline FMCG retail shifted to the suburban residential areas or ‘heartlands’, and as affordability became more important, more shoppers turned to local supermarket chains such as Sheng Siong and FairPrice.

While Singaporean consumers were no strangers to e-commerce, the pandemic had accelerated the adoption of online purchase channels across all age groups . The convenience of shopping online, along with the added security of contactless delivery, seemed to have convinced most Singaporean consumers to continue purchasing goods online even after the pandemic . To enhance this experience, innovative trends such as live commerce have become increasingly popular, with sellers live streaming a variety of goods, from cosmetics and fast fashion to fresh produce such as meat and seafood. While this may not fully compensate for the tactile and interactive experience of offline retail, live streaming is still growing even though retail outlets have opened their doors again. To avoid a return to FMCG growth trends pre-pandemic, Singaporean retailers would need to integrate the online with the offline retail experience.


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