Supermarkets win from Sars scare

Shoppers in China are turning to what they perceive as the more sanitary environments provided by supermarkets and hypermarkets in the wake of the Sars virus. The outbreak has led to a significant retail downturn in Sars-hit areas.

Convenience Retail Asia estimated recently that Hong Kong retail sales have dropped between 20 per cent and 60 per cent since the outbreak.

Chinese consumers traditionally head for so called wet-markets for their groceries. However, Thailand-based retailer CP Group said its Lotus stores in China have increased sales volumes between 7 per cent and 12 per cent.

Managers at the stores told local press that they believe they have benefited from a switch from traditional markets.

M+M Planet Retail analyst Robert Gregory said Lotus has launched several preventative measures, including disinfecting the air and trolleys in its stores, sending home staff found to have high temperature and requiring all cashiers and staff in the fresh produce section to wear face masks.

'Such measures are ensuring that it is probably the traditional small retail stores that are suffering the most,' said Gregory.