Earlier in March, Malaysia was the largest known virus vector in Southeast Asia. Today, the country has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic well. To date, 46.8 million people around the world have been infected with COVID-19. Of which, Malaysia only accounts for about 33,000 cases, and close to 70% of these cases have recovered.
As with other countries, the pandemic has upended the lives of families, impacted economies and left many struggling to adapt to a “new normal”. Within Malaysia’s retail scene, retail industry sales have plummeted by 11.4% in the first quarter of 2020. But with the bulk of its COVID-19 cases under control, Malaysia’s economy, which slumped badly in the second quarter of 2020, could be well on its way to recovery, says OCBC economist Wellian Wiranto.
The nation’s stringent regulations and restrictions, such as mandatory mask wearing and Movement Control Order (MCO), which were enacted swiftly, are also to be lauded for. The nation’s latest COVID-19 countermeasure, Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), was enforced in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, and Putrajaya in mid-October, following the spike in cases within the region. It was stipulated to end in late-October, but underwent two extensions and will end on Dec 6.
For businesses, the CMCO is untimely and an inevitable hindrance. Even so, many companies have gleaned valuable lessons from the nation’s first MCO and have adapted accordingly. For Novelship, an e-marketplace that sells and buys luxury sneakers, greater web-engagement and site visits were some of the impacts that surfaced during the COVID-19 pandemic and CMCO.
In an exclusive interview with hoolah, Chief Executive Officer of Novelship, Richard Xia, shares his insights on the label’s strategies against COVID-19 pandemic, CMCO and how he is optimistic of Novelship trajectory for the future.
Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people shop today?
Xia: In most areas of business, it is a resounding yes. For years, online shopping has been growing, and the COVID-19 pandemic — for better or worse — has hyper-accelerated this growth by making traditional offline commerce impossible. People who would typically not shop online are increasingly doing so, and they are beginning to understand the convenience of it, as compared to traditional methods.
What are the defining traits of Novelship?
Xia: The two defining traits of Novelship are exclusivity and authenticity. Our consumers are interested in buying and selling the most-exclusive sneakers and streetwear from brands, including Air Jordan, Adidas Yeezy, and Supreme. These brands are expensive and the fakes in the market have grown. To combat this, we professionally authenticate every single item purchased and sold on Novelship to ensure it is 100% legitimate.
How has the 2nd CMCO affected business? And were there lessons learned during the 1st CMCO that enabled Novelship to better handle the recent CMCO?
Xia: During the first CMCO we actually saw a big boost in transactions originating from Malaysia. When the second CMCO was implemented, we saw the same trend. In terms of real growth percentage, we’ve seen our Malaysian buyer market grow 114% from September to October 2020.
With more time spent at home during lockdowns, consumers are more likely to frequently surf online. For E-Commerce companies, this often results in increased sales and greater site engagement. To avoid costly shipping delays we’ve implemented a “storage” function for buyers, meaning they can buy the sneakers and streetwear they love online, and we store them in our facilities until they are ready to receive.
Despite the 2nd CMCO, Malaysia has managed to largely keep COVID-19 cases in check throughout the year. What does this say about the resilience of Malaysians and Malaysia business?
Xia: It’s good to see Malaysians taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously and following orders that enable the nation’s case count to remain low. No one has all the answers to this pandemic figured out, however it’s encouraging to see people coming together and acting in unison for the betterment of their community and country. This illustrates the resilience of Malaysians.
What are Novelship’s aspirations for the future?
Xia: There’s a lot of room to grow in Malaysia, Southeast Asia, and the greater Asia-Pacific region as a whole. Sneaker and streetwear culture in these regions is still quite underdeveloped, it hasn’t had time yet to fully take hold and enamour consumers like it has in the United States.
Over the coming years Novelship does not only wish to capitalise on this growth, but also become a leader in producing content and developing local communities , ultimately growing the entire market and helping our users pursue their passion more easily, and more affordably.
Interview has been edited for clarity.