A.S. Watson Group (ASW) is the world’s largest health and beauty retail group with more than 14,000 stores in 24 markets.

The Hong-Kong-based company owns or has major stakes in key European chains such as Marionnaud, Europe’s third largest perfume and cosmetics retailer, Superdrug, the UK’s second largest beauty and health chain, and Rossmann, Germany’s second-largest drugstore network.

A new survey of 22,000 consumers in 20 markets by ASW reveals that the future is phygital – a combination of physical stores and online sales.

There has been a torrent of data centering on the increase of online spending during the COVID-19 crisis, but e-commerce is a long way from being the only game in town.

According to ASW research, 90 per cent of those surveyed said they would continue to shop online. But 100 per cent revealed that they would still shop in physical stores because they value human connection.

Surprisingly, Gen Z respondents were the most keen on bricks-and-mortar retail, with a third saying they would visit stores more often in the future.

Beauty ranked high in the lifestyle preferences of respondents. More than 92 per cent said they would take part in more outdoor activities following the coronavirus pandemic, followed by cooking at home (91%) and DIY beauty treatments (84%).

While the pandemic accelerated e-commerce growth and technological developments, notes Malina Ngai, CEO of A.S.Watson. “The crisis has underlined consumers’ desire for human connections, and for the future of retail, these bonds will become even more important.”

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