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 intimate-wear label, 6IXTY8IGHT, the company has embraced the time from CMCO to innovate its online offerings, train staff and embrace newer marketing modes.
In an exclusive interview with hoolah, Regional Managing Director of 6IXTY8IGHT, Paulino Moreno, shares his insights on trends and lessons gleaned from the COVID-19 pandemic and CMCO.
Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people shop today?
Moreno: Definitely. In general, we think that customers have started valuing what’s essential in their lives more frequently.
What are some market trends 6IXTY8IGHT is seeing in the market?
Moreno: In our sector, there are two trends that are shaking up the market.
First, there is a focus on health and healthy lifestyles which translate to a rapidly growing demand for activewear and fitness clothing. And second, with people spending more time at home, the demand for comfortable loungewear and nightwear is also booming.
For 6IXTY8IGHT, we’ve always had a huge focus on making garments that feel comfortable. We feel that customers value that sense of comfort even more so now.
On the topic of intimate wears, what are the defining traits of 6IXTY8IGHT?
Moreno: The defining traits of 6IXTY8IGHT are girly, cheeky and playful.
How has the 2nd CMCO affected business? And were there lessons learnt during the first CMCO that enabled 6IXTY8IGHT to better handle the recent CMCO?
Moreno: Obviously the 2nd CMCO has a big impact on our business. We saw significant drops in traffic and sales in physical outlets.
The key lesson from the first CMCO is that now, we are adapting to the new CMCO by building our online business, allocating the free time to train our teams, promoting our brand on social media, and even testing out new procedures and ideas.
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 Malaysian businesses?
Moreno: Malaysia has been affected by two waves of COVID-19 cases, like most countries. The support and resilience of all Malaysian stakeholders (retailers, landlords, institutions, employees and of course the continuous support of customers) is key to keep the country going.
What are 6IXTY8IGHT’s aspirations for the future?
Moreno: Our aspiration is to offer the most comfortable garments at the most affordable prices to more customers in Asia and beyond.
Interview has been edited for clarity.