Spill Not From Santa’s Sleigh

You know for certain that times have changed when outside mailboxes, they are delivering more parcels than letters

This isn’t Christmas morning. Yet. It’s a gloomy, humid, drizzle-speckled noon. The mailman has not arrived, but the delivery people have. And they come bearing what could be Santa’s early bounty. The orders are scattered all over the void deck, as if Mr Clause’s elves have been busy, but not tidy. Big and small, tall and stout, thick and thin, they are there, all more massive than any mailbox could hold. They look to be the same community of packages, delivered in the paper uniform of brown/white envelopes/boxes. What we see are arrivals for an entire block of flats. Is that not a lot of shopping delivered in a moment? And Black Friday has only just arrived, barely 12 hours ago.

Perhaps we have been e-commerce disbelievers, the die-hard brick-and-mortar shoppers for too long. Seeing this pasar malam spread, it’s hard to dispute that our shopping habits have changed, and that we’re the goons still going to stores and touching things, and interacting with increasingly indifferent service staff, who must think we are from a distant, backward star. The rest of the populace are no longer going out to buy what they want and bringing the items home themselves. They are shopping via their smartphones, and having their purchases delivered to their front door. And it isn’t just the odd lazy consumer ensconced at home. It appears to be a whole community, an entire people doing their shopping online. One of the most primal of human behaviours—and needs—has really succumbed to digital conversion. Like cash.

Retailers, too, are pressured to go online. Adopt the platform or perish. The threat is very real, not virtual. A distributor and retailer of a popular shoe brand told us that the potential of online sales cannot be ignored. “Before 11/11, we were doing less than 10% of online sales,” she said. “Now, we’re doing more than 35%!” One sales assistant at a clothing store, said to us that “unless we have a sale, traffic is very slow. People may come in, but only to check the prices. They end up buying online.” Government ministers have warned too. Reacting to the impending closure of Robinsons, manpower minister Josephine Teo told the media that “it does signal very strongly that our industries are going to continue to have to transform.” There was no mention in the trite statement of how Robinsons has slipped in store positioning or merchandise mix. Whatever it is, rejig—go online. Keep the deliverymen busy.

Photo: Chin Boh Kay

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