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Uncertain times in Southeast Asia

Nimanja pet store,

Nimanja operates five stores in Brunei and three in Malaysia.

The Nimanja pet store chain with branches in Brunei and Malaysia has experienced weeks of uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic in Southeast Asia.

Thanks to pet owners rushing to stock up on vital pet products, Nimanja was able to buck the trend of falling sales figures among retailers in the region. "We managed to achieve the highest sales so far in our group of companies in both Brunei and Malaysia in March," Nimanja managing director Anderson Lim told PET worldwide.


On 15 March, Brunei prohibited its citizens from leaving the country. The Sultanate also banned mass gatherings and eating in restaurants, as well as preventing foreigners from entering the country. For its part, Malaysia issued a movement control order, meaning that people were only permitted to leave their homes for essential purposes, such as food shopping.


The Nimanja retail group was the subject of reports on social media channels that an employee who previously had contact with a coronavirus patient had appeared in one of the Brunei stores. "We explained in two statements on 12 and 18 March that safety precautions had been taken to protect both employees and customers from the virus," says Anderson Lim. All stores were disinfected on a daily basis, social distancing rules were put in place and hand sanitiser and thermometers were made available. Staff members were also instructed to wear face masks and gloves.

Food and litter

Immediately after the introduction of coronavirus social distancing rules in Brunei, Nimanja saw a big increase in people shopping for pet food and cat litter in particular. It was a different picture at Miri in Malaysia, as the authorities there initially set no clear guidelines as to whether pet stores would be allowed to remain open. It only became clear on 25 March that Nimanja would be able to operate normally.


Despite the unprecedented demand, Nimanja had sufficient stocks. By chance, the company had topped up its inventories for an entirely different reason - the opening of a store in Miri and two new outlets in Brunei. The third store in Miri opened on 12 January. In Brunei, Nimanja opened a fourth store on 15 February and a fifth store on 9 March, shortly before the coronavirus outbreak. "The goods arrived in Brunei just in time to satisfy consumer demand," comments Anderson Lim.


Anderson Lim no longer anticipates any supply problems, but has concerns about getting manufacturers' products to the market. "Our biggest worry is the lack of ships and planes, leading to delays in delivering our products to Brunei," he continues. Shipping costs from Europe and the USA have also virtually doubled since the start of the crisis. In addition, "we are still uncertain when we will be able to get our deliveries in Malaysia, as most deliveries coming into the country were stopped," says Lim. Nimanja thus intends to concentrate in the coming months on optimising the supply chain.

Looking to the future

Anderson Lim admits that the hike in sales seen in March was probably only temporary. He expects consumer spending to fall back again when the restrictions are lifted: "It will slow down, but I don't believe this will affect our sales of products other than pet food to a significant extent." Since pets are now more than ever considered members of the family, the money saved due to restrictions on travel and social and communal activities due to physical distancing will probably be spent on pets, according to the experienced sector player.


"We also need to consider the strength of our economy and government stimulus packages. When people lose their jobs, they have less money coming in and no disposable income," says Anderson Lim in conclusion.

 

 

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