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. In the face of uncertainty, Malaysian female intimate wear label, XIXILI Intima Malaysia, is embracing the digital realm to attract customers with innovative strategies, such as adopting an interest-free installment payment plan and improving user experience on its online store.
In an exclusive interview with hoolah, Chief Marketing Officer of XIXILI Intima Malaysia, Tara Tan, shares her insights on the label’s strategies against COVID-19 pandemic and more.
Do you think the current pandemic has changed the way people shop today?
Tara Tan: Very much so! In the weeks of complete lockdown during the MCO, many retailers saw an influx of new account registrations on their web stores. This highlights how more and more shoppers are shifting towards the digital medium to get their essentials or retail fix online!
What has XIXILI done to cater to this new trend of shopping?
Tan: The pandemic has without a doubt accelerated the growth of E-Commerce, and many demographics are now accustomed to shopping online, via social media or even through messaging apps. At XIXILI, we have accommodated for these shifts in our customers’ demands with the developments of our “Try on in 3D” (a 3D avatar to help you find your perfect fit), “Try in Store”, as well as an overall enhanced customer shopping experience on our web store.
Furthermore, we have also partnered with fintech firm, hoolah, and launched a “Buy Now, Pay Later” payment method at both our offline boutiques and online web store to help our customers better afford these essentials.
On the topic of intimate wears, what are the defining traits of XIXILI?
Tan: We are a homegrown Malaysian brand, who proudly offers beautiful fashion lingerie that supports all the essential elements of fit and comfort. With an extensive range of brassieres from cup sizes A to I and bands 65 to 100, XIXILI embraces women of all sizes and shapes. We strongly advocate for women to always be fitted to wear the right-sized bra as she journeys through the various stages of her life, from youth to motherhood and more.
How has the 2nd CMCO affected business? And were there lessons learnt during the first MCO that enabled XIXILI to better handle the recent CMCO?
Tan: This 2nd CMCO continues to be extremely tough for both brick-and-mortar retailers and online shops. In this second wave, there have been several reports of positive COVID-19 cases found at malls, and this has directly impacted the foot traffic within shopping malls nation-wide.
As a retailer and a business, one lesson learnt from the previous lockdowns was the importance of having multiple channels of distribution, including offline, online and even catering to international clienteles. We also had to adapt quickly to ensure that each channel could also swiftly pivot to support one another. For example, we have to be quick and efficient in moving stocks from one channel to another, while our team members need to be versatile to support sales from another channel.
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?
Tan: Without a doubt, we are proud to be a Malaysian brand with operations spanning across the Peninsular to East Malaysia, as well as having a stronghold of Malaysian customers and business partners.
2020 is easily one of the toughest years for XIXILI, but we have been very fortunate to have had great support from both local and regional vendors alike. We also have unwavering support from our customers who have participated and embraced in all our initiatives that help each woman find their perfect fit and support from their favourite lingerie pieces.
What are XIXILI’s aspirations for the future?
Tan: At XIXILI, we are always striving to proffer the highest levels of comfort and support to our customers through our products and our customer shopping experience. As we bring our customers their perfectly-fitted lingerie, we also hope to enhance their experience with XIXILI by offering a gamut of options that serve not only just their lingerie needs, but also their retail therapy needs too.
Interview has been edited for clarity.