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Business, Society, Singapore, Featured

SG Economy: Is Local the New Global?

Much has been said about how COVID-19 has decimated the retail sector in Singapore. According to SingStat, retail sales fell 8.5% year-on-year in July. This reflects an improvement over the previous month, where sales fell by 27.7%. This month, we take a closer look at Singaporeans’ shopping behaviours and see if the pandemic has brought about a change in our preferences.

As our recent Into the Light report shows, consumers across the ASEAN region are paying more attention to a brand’s country of origin, with a marked preference towards local brands. Six in 10 ASEAN consumers state that a product’s country of origin is an important factor in their purchasing decision, and 85% state they support local brands over international ones.

This shift is clearly reflected in our Singapore audience: our monthly poll reveals that close to half (48%) of Singaporeans are willing to pay more for a local brand than for a similar product from overseas.

But being local is not enough – for customers to be willing to pay more for the product, the brand also needs to be relatable and authentic (71% say these are important factors). The brand also needs to convey a sense of pride, highlighting our grit, our hard work, and what it means to be a Singaporean (58%). It will also help if the brand has demonstrated clear efforts to help the local community (51%).

The type of product also makes a difference when making purchasing decisions. Singaporeans are more likely to spend more on a local brand if the product is food and beverage (80%) compared to consumer durables (36%) or beauty products (35%).

But Singaporeans still find quality (85%) and price (81%) to be the key driver when adding goods to their baskets. Brand heritage (42%), stature (43%), and local relevance (52%) will only get you so far.

As the COVID-19 situation evolves, Singaporeans are becoming more discerning and conscientious, with heightened awareness of country of origin and a stronger preference towards homegrown innovation.

If you are a regional or international brand, how are you evaluating your brand and its relevance amongst a more locally minded consumer? Do you understand which elements of your brand draw appeal versus those that need to be refined or revisited entirely? What does “local” mean in the context of your business, and would a more localised strategy or brand image help create greater appeal?

If you are a local brand, how can you take advantage of this unique advantage? How can you set yourself apart from other local players and which elements of your brand can you amplify? COVID-19 has acted as a great accelerator and a massive change agent, so what steps are you taking with your brand to keep up?

Interested to know more about ASEAN consumer trends? Email me at to find out more.