Brunei pet shop chain expands amid pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting challenges for the small country of Brunei, but at least one pet-related store is opening new locations on schedule.

Nimanja Inc. Sdn Bhd, Brunei Darrusalam (Brunei)'s fastest-growing pet retail shop (both physical and virtual), has its expansion plans still on point despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

On September 20, 2020, Nimanja opened its sixth and seventh branches, capping four years of strong growth since its inception in July 2016 that has also seen the opening of three separate branches in Miri, Malaysia, a city close to the Bruneian-Malaysian border. Most of Nimanja's branches can be found in or near the country's capital of Bandar Seri Begawan. Of the current seven Nimanja branches, four happened to open during the pandemic. 

More on Nimanja and its business during the pandemic

Nimanja is a family-owned business that currently distributes and sells over 3,000 products for cats, dogs, birds, fish, reptiles and small animals. They also carry at least 50 international pet brands, mostly pet food.

Soon after opening its first store, Nimanja quickly launched Brunei's first online pet shop, which has since served a much wider base of pet lovers beyond the reach of their physical stores.

The monarchy's anti-COVID-19 control movement order allowed pet shops like Nimanja to stay open as Brunei quickly identified pet food as among the essential goods that must reach the market safely and continuously. Ironically, the pandemic even became a boon to Nimanja's business as pet owners stocked up on pet foods and other pet essentials resulting in its highest sales so far, said Anderson Lim, founder and managing director of Nimanja.

The one clear downside of the lockdown, however, was it became difficult for Nimanja to replenish their supplies, particularly for their stores in Malaysia. Although the shortest air travel distance between Brunei and Malaysia is only 880 miles, new health and security protocols for air shipments on top of higher shipping fees pose a serious challenge to a business like Nimanja.

Brunei’s pet market

Brunei's pet industry is still young, and its demography and religion still define much of the market's development. For one, Brunei is a very small country (its total territory size is 5,765 kilometers — roughly 3582 miles, slightly smaller than the state of Delaware, USA). By the middle of 2020, its population was estimated at 437,479, or 0.01% of the total world population, and 79% of them are Muslims who are unlikely to keep a pet dog.

For 2020, market data provider Statista estimates revenues in Brunei's pet segment to reach US$4 million, but that is together with revenues coming from the country's do-it-yourself (DIY) and garden segments.

As of September 21, 2020, Brunei had 145 COVID-19 infection cases with 141 recoveries and one death.

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