Indonesians still prefer wet markets, survey shows

Ika Krismantari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Living the life as a devoted mother/wife and a full-time career woman, 52-year-old Sri Widyawati refuses to be categorized as one of today's modern working moms -- when it comes to shopping, she always prefers to do it the traditional way!

"I insist on buying fresh food every day from the itinerant grocery vendors in my neighborhood, and I shop at the mom-and-pop grocery stores near my house to buy personal-care goods. I rarely go to a hypermarket or supermarket because of the distance and higher prices involved," Sri confided to The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Inheriting household management skills from their mothers, Sri and other so-called conventional moms would appear to be on the increase in Indonesia, at least according to a newly released survey by Nielsen.

The survey on the outlets that people most frequently visited to do their shopping between 2005 and 2006 (interestingly, how much money they spent in each type of outlet was not covered) reveals the surprising result that the majority of urban Indonesians still prefer to do their shopping in traditional outlets.

According to the survey results, despite the rapid spread of hypermarkets and other modern retail outlets around the country, people still prefer traditional grocery stores to hypermarkets. The respondents said that they visited traditional outlets 25 times on average per month, while they only visited modern outlets two times per month.

The survey also revealed that people tended to visit wet markets on average 12 times per month, while the frequency of visits to supermarkets and minimarkets only averaged three times and five times per month, respectively.

The 2006 survey, which covered a sample of 1,385 respondents in four major cities -- Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung and Makassar -- also revealed an increasing tendency to purchase groceries from itinerant vendors, who supply fresh food directly to the consumers right in front of their doors.

According to the survey, people purchased groceries from such vendors 19 times a month on average, an increase from 13 times a month in 2005.

"The reasons are quite logical as these traditional outlets offer lower and negotiable prices, and are also close to home. Besides that, these kinds of outlets also provide a greater choice of fresh produce. Remember, Asians, including Indonesian people, love fresh produce and food. That's why hypermarkets have failed in China," Nielsen director for retailer services Yongky Surya Susilo said during the presentation of the survey results.

Yongki's statement is supported by the fact that almost half of Indonesian monthly household spending goes on fresh foods.

In 2005, the average household spent Rp 459,000 (US$50.40) on fresh foods, or 52 percent of the average monthly expenditure of Rp 891,000, an increase over the 50 percent and 47 percent recorded in 2004 and 2003, respectively.

At present, traditional outlets still dominate the Indonesian retail market, with the total number of such outlets standing at 1.78 million in 2005, up 2 percent compared to the previous year, while the number of modern outlets stood at some 8,000 in 2005, and 6,700 in 2004.

In value terms, Indonesia's retail market is one of the biggest in Asia, and maintained double-digit growth for three consecutive years up to and including 2006.

Indonesia's retail market increased by 14.3 percent in value to Rp 63 trillion in 2006 from Rp 57 trillion in 2005. Meanwhile in 2005, it increased 17.7 percent from Rp 48.6 trillion in 2004.

Indonesia forms part of the growing Asian retail market, which accounts for 32 percent of global retail sales.

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