Kuwait business impact during Coronavirus

Kuwait is facing unprecedented challenges and is enforcing major restrictions to protect its citizens yet those measures had a severe business impact. Global Markets is utilizing its wealthy current and historic primary research findings, Umbrella platform, and advanced assumption modelings to illustrate the daily revenues impact of the Coronavirus while comparing it to previous years.

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COVID-19 Impact by Industry

The government’s lockdown and social distancing efforts are continuing to affect the fashion, foodservice, and entertainment sectors since the last week of February. In February, all three industries dipped to as low as 87% but slightly recovered in the first few days of March. At that time, COVID-19 was a new and an unfamiliar crisis that led a large consumer segment to shift their spending towards necessary goods despite having all retail malls and entertainment facilities open. The government took serious measures to contain the arrivals and manage their exposure to the virus which developed consumer confidence that pushed the different industries to climb towards recovery. This short-lived growth was shattered after new governmental measures and public announcements of the importance of social distancing were initiated.
The performances declined severely as a result of two main events, retail malls closures and the partial curfew. Retail Malls, parks, restaurants dine in, Friday market, and Ice cream trucks were shut down on the 4th of March. The curfew on the other hand started on the 22nd of March. The curfew restricted movement of all residents except essential workers from 5 PM to 4 AM which then was extended several times to 4 PM To 8 AM until the 28th of May. The curfew also includes government offices shutdown. The Kuwaiti government announced an extension of the curfew measures until the 28th of May to avoid viral outbreaks as a result of Ramadan social gatherings and events. The curfew extension would result in extending the government offices shutdown and a large portion of the private sector. Additionally, retail malls, health clubs, salons, and other major consumer related industries remained closed until the end of Ramadan.

The State of the Fashion Industry

April 2020 Update

Ramadan is known for as a month of mixed performance attributes where the fashion industry is developing momentum in preparation for two major shopping events, Gargee'an (mid of Ramadan) and Eid. Those events will have low positive impact as a result of the lockdown. The fashion industry failed to react to the crisis as quickly as possible. The major fashion retailers in Kuwait who are also mall developers primarily focused on strategies that will only drive footfall into their physical malls and their stores are byproduct of such strategy. Such focus on physical stores led to very minimal online presence such as online stores and social media coverage. Some brands launched their online stores during midApril, although they do not have the actual online stores only PDF catalogues that consumers need to communicate their orders by screenshotting the selected product to a designated WhatsApp phone number.
Fashion retailers who operated their online stores prior to the pandemic were also overwhelmed with the increasing orders and the limited timeframe for delivery. Kuwait is the only country in the GCC that did not allow the delivery services to operate during curfew hours in March and April. Such restrictions caused ordered to be delivered two to three weeks from the purchase date.

WHAT IS NEXT?

Fashion brands are expected to have inventory issues due to unsold March, April, and May inventories along with order cancellations for the next two to three seasons. Global brands that control their supply chain and can balance between the changes in consumer preferences with the severe financial impact of the virus on each global region will be able to thrive beyond the pandemic.
Fashion brand retailers must push their localized strategies over their global brand owners in order to survive and accommodate their local needs. Once the crisis is over, global brand owners will push their survival strategies over the country level operators in terms of pushing inventory and promotions that are beneficial to their global brand owner but not necessarily matching the localized consumer reaction and appetite during post pandemic times.
Fashion brand retailers must push their localized strategies over their global brand owners in order to survive and accommodate their local needs.

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The State of the Foodservice Industry

April 2020 Update

The foodservice industry kept on generating minimum revenues throughout the pandemic. Consumers are still able to purchase meals as take outs from restaurants located outside malls and through delivery service. However, Delivery was allowed only during morning time due to curfew timings throughout the months of March and April. The continuous shortening of the operating hours was putting pressure on deliveries and their abilities to accommodate as many orders as possible. For example, breakfast restaurants were not able to accommodate orders once the government pushed the curfew to end at 6 AM in the morning. Limited transport due to public transportation and taxis ban were forcing restaurant staffs to arrive late in the morning and forcing them to leave their restaurants early at 3 PM to avoid delays and penalties. Restaurants launched frozen and ready to cook gathering boxes for customers to cover for the missed dinner meals. However, the meals were overpriced covering a minimum average of 6 people.
The ban on delivery was lifted in the start of the Ramadan and will operate during curfew hours which will not generate the desired demand. Ramadan’s breakfast meals evolve around family gathering with homemade meals which caused the performances of dine in and delivery to decline during the holy month. Lifting the ban will not meet the desired positive impact on the foodservice delivery in May. Additionally, take out and drive through sales will decline by 100% in the entire month of May due to the curfew and Ramadan.
Two food retail categories were outperforming other categories due to the nature of their product offerings such as butcher shops and nuts and roastery outlets (i.e. International Mill, Al Rifai, Al Fouz, etc.) and the bakeries (i.e. Mr. Baker, Sable, La Baguette). Both categories specialize in products that do not require immediate consumption. Restaurants that featured a strong food retail section like Eataly were able to remain open in UAE and Saudi wherein they capitalize on providing branded grocery needs with their own recipes within their stores and through delivery (Kuwait).
Restaurant brands that diversified their presence beyond retail malls along with the launching of drive through outlets were able to generate better performances than their competitors. Despite the long curfew hours, consumers were slowly getting back to fast food drive through queues around the country.

WHAT IS NEXT?

Kuwait’s foodservice industry is expected to witness a change in the dine in vs. delivery revenue distribution. It is true that consumers were forced to cook at home especially with very limited food delivery timeframe due to during curfew ban. Two factors will contribute to this change; First, it is expected that the government to lower restaurant occupancy at any given time which would reduce dine in transactions due to restrictions. Additionally, the influx of locals repatriated from overseas and being locked down is expected to continue throughout May which would create demand with high purchase power limited only to take out and delivery orders.
A foodservice rebound is imminent, and operators should consider and adapt to the drastic changes. The increased local population along with the decrease in expat population is an opportunity that foodservice brands that profiled their consumers throughout the years can capitalize on. New tailored menu items with updated prices and smart meal bundling is of essence. Restaurants should believe in the science of meal building beyond taste. The sooner a restaurant brand can develop a meal that is tasty yet have reasonably priced ingredients and change that meal automatically if the prices change will have the ability to withstand future market changes.
Additionally,the pandemic will leave the market with more store vacancies and less competition. The brands that operated a healthy business model should take advantage of the soon to be available real estate and capture new market share that was difficult to capture previously.
A foodservice rebound is imminent, and operators should consider and adapt to the drastic changes

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The State of the Entertainment Industry

April 2020 Update

Family Entertainment Centers (FECs) business model caters the large number of children in one place to play together which defies all social distancing guidelines imposed by the World Health Organization and the local government. FECs also generate revenues from events and party rooms. FECs were first to adhere to the pandemic restrictions and many have closed prior to the local business shutdowns. FECs should adapt to the changes by reducing the number of children and individuals present at their playground at any given time. The key element to overcome the lower occupancies at playgrounds is a booking system. FECs should take advantage of the summer holiday and children being confined at homes for a long time. A booking system will enable FECs operators to accommodate future bookings and guarantee not returning children due to restrictions.
Cinemas on the other hand, started managing bookings and reservations many years ago but have to consider lower occupancy of customers along with expensive sanitization measures. Cinemas should work together to enable extended viewing times that are not conventional at normal market conditions. For example, having movies ending at 2 AM or 3 AM. The lower occupancies can be countered with extended viewing hours. Unfortunately, standalone cinemas were replaced by retail malls and the standalone theater disappeared more than twenty years ago. Real estate developers should consider the long-lasting impact of the Corona virus and brace for an independent screening policy from the malls which can only be done if the theaters are developed as standalones or have separate points of entry.
Cinemas should work together to enable extended viewing times that are not conventional at normal market conditions.

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The State of the Retail Mall Industry

Thoughts and Ideas

The financial impact of the Corona virus on Mall developers is drastic. Developers started to waive and reduce rents during business inactivity, and they should expect higher vacancy rates due to closures. The financial impact would leave those developers at a weak financial position even after lockdown measures are lifted. Mall owners should manage the social distancing measures and become proactive to propose plans and strategies to the government to reopen their properties. There are two main challenges being faced by the retail malls after the measures are lifted. The first is how to manage the large influx of customers who are expected to swarm into the malls and most likely violate the social distancing guidelines. The second is how to generate the most footfall for their tenants to stay solvent and cancontinue to pay the rent.
Retail malls should think to operate their malls at extended working hours beyond the traditional 10 am to 10 pm. Malls must consider opening as early as 7 am until 2 am. The longer the working hours, the more footfall will be expected given the imposed social distancing measures. Additionally, the malls can develop a booking mechanism for customers to reserve their visit slot to the mall. The last thing a customer will be stuck in traffic at the fifth ring road to visit the Avenues Mall or the sixth ring road to visit 360 Mall. Introducing a booking system while managing the traffic at the points of entry from the highways would create an enjoyable shopping experience and convince the government to slowly loosen up their social distancing measures. The booking system can also help in controlling retail queues and restaurant waiting times in the mall.
Moreover, mall owners should work together with the government to expand the restaurants’ outdoor seating capacity temporarily. This way, restaurants can accommodate more customers while following the social distancing measures imposed by the mall and the government.
Retail malls should consider the fact that a second or a third wave of the Corona virus (or any other novel virus) is likely to happen and plan to counter the possibility of sudden closures. Retail malls should consider launching their online retail stores featuring the products of the stores they house within their malls while integrating shipments and logistics to be launched from the mall. The Corona virus pandemic enabled us to witness large fashion and foodservice brand operators failing to manage their own online presence. Managing a successful shopping experience relies on the future of the shopping centers regardless of the venue being physical or virtual. Moreover, retailers should embrace a major demographics change that took place prior to the Corona virus crisis. Young Kuwaiti families are moving out from the city to the new residential areas which changes the frequency of those consumers to city shopping destinations are bound to decline due to proximity. Developing a multi-brand online shopping destination would be a unique selling proposition over the competing malls.
The longer the working hours, the more footfall will be expected given the imposed social distancing measures

GCC Corona Infection Statistics

Despite the drastic measures being implemented by the governments in the GCC at an early stage of the infection levels in the region, the daily confirmed cases and the death count has been increasing across all six GCC countries. Currently, the infection started to increase significantly since the time where low skilled labor camps and low-income neighborhoods registered their first cases. The high number of residents within small and confined spaces were causing the infections to spread at a fast pace. The business and consumer ability for consumption declines significantly with higher lockdown measures as a result of higher infection rates. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are maintaining a comprehensive daily infection update of localized infection count with demographic and geographic details while the other countries maintained a total count of infections, recoveries, and death counts.

Cases by Country

Deaths by Country

Recoveries by Country

Government Stimulus Packages

Fiscal Stimulus

CountryValueGDP
Bahrain648,120,000 $1.71 %
Oman24,023,000 $0.03 %
Qatar810,000,000 $0.42 %
Saudi Arabia39,490,200,000 $5.032 %
UAE39,490,200,000 $5.032 %
KuwaitNANA

Monetary Stimulus

CountryValueGDP
Bahrain10,190,400,000 $0.27 %
Oman20,800,000,000 $26.24 %
Qatar22,140,000,000 $11.57 %
Saudi ArabiaNANA
UAE270,000 $5.032 %
KuwaitNANA

Urgent Healthcare Support

CountryValueGDP
Bahrain467,280,000 $1.24 %
Oman467,280,000 $0.05 %
Saudi Arabia12,733,200,000 $1.62 %
UAENANA
QatarNANA
Kuwait1,637,100,000 $1.16 %

Stimulus Packages Value (USD) and % of Counry GDP

CountryValueGDP
Bahrain11,305,800,000 $29.96 %
Oman20,863,303,719 $26 %
Qatar22,950,000,000 $12 %
Saudi Arabia52,223,400,000 $7 %
UAE71,251,110,000 $17 %
KuwaitNANA
The GCC region has its unique financial situation that differs from the global situation. Despite the major oil price fallout, governments in the GCC have been at the forefronts of supporting the cashflow stability of its government workers who account for most of the workforce in the GCC countries. Such continuous cashflow stability along with a spike of that consumer segment will create strong rebound in the market once businesses are back to operation.
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