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Christmas shopping circa 2020

COVID-19 pandemic forces shift in buying, selling behavior
/ 04:30 AM November 01, 2020

Consumer spending habits have no doubt changed since quarantine started back in March.

The limited movement of goods brought about by the stay-at-home order to stem the spread of COVID-19 prompted consumers to spend mostly on necessities during the early days of quarantine. Now, more than seven months later, the desire to purchase wants rather than needs has remained, even as travel restrictions have eased all around the country.

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Such preference is not expected to shift even with the onset of the holiday season.

Philippine Retailers Association and Wilcon Depot Inc. President Rosemarie Ong said during the recent Pinas Muna Tayo webinar that practicality will be at the forefront of decision making, but that Filipinos will continue to spend despite the circumstances.

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“We are a consumption-­driven country and a consumption-­driven economy; it will boost productivity for businesses and everyone, and it will stimulate the economy if people start spending,” she said. One sector that consumers have been focusing on in particular is in home improvement goods as the lockdown has made the home an extension of everything and has become the center for commerce in this “new normal.”

But with the new normal also comes a new way to shop with journalist and anchor Korina Sanchez-­Roxas saying that online is the way to go now for shoppers. As someone who prioritizes local e-commerce sites such as Lazada, Shopee and BeautyMNL, one of the reasons for Sanchez-Roxas’ shift to local websites came from a place of worry.

“Before, I’d go for Lane Crawford or I’d go to Farfetch, which are the international online sites but because shipping now is so iffy, I’m still scared. Maybe I’m uninformed or fearful that what I’ll be spending on online is so expensive and it doesn’t get to me at all or on time, [so] I’d rather buy locally”, she says.

A tip Sanchez-Roxas gives to consumers is to start Christmas shopping early to take advantage of lower prices.

But holiday shopping will likely be subdued, as Philippine Exporters Confederation president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. says many companies might not be able to give Christmas bonuses to their staff this year.

Ortiz-Luis says around half of the country’s microenterprises are either unable to fully open or are closing down permanently due to the pandemic. In the hope that large companies haven’t been affected as much in the time of COVID-19, most employees are now relying on their generosity for their bonuses and 13th-month pay.

Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo then encourages Filipinos to buy local products over imported ones. Buying local products will actually benefit a lot of Filipinos in terms of employment, which the Department of Trade and Industry strongly advocates for.

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Choosing local products— which includes not just native woven items that first come to mind but anything that is manufactured in the Philippines— means employment for Filipinos.

“The higher the demand, the more that manufacturers will need, and the more workers that manufacturers will need; and it translates to benefits,” she explains.

Castelo encourages consumers to make that conscious decision to choose local at supermarkets or groceries. Patronizing locally made products should be the trend during this time of pandemic and past it. “It will not only instill love of country, but it will also improve our employment rate and put more money in more people’s pockets to buy more goods for their family.”

What retailers can do to encourage consumers to buy more local products is to have promotions such as sales to help move inventory.

Sanchez-Roxas says that about her online beauty business K Everyday. In order to pay suppliers, you have to be able to sell. For brick-and-mortar stores like Wilcon Depot, Ong says their promotions focus on showing that their store is a safe place to shop.

“The perspective of the shoppers has changed. They are either pessimistic or they’re either afraid—they don’t have the confidence to go out and shop.”

For Wilcon to promote a safe shopping experience in their store, they strictly follow quarantine protocols for employees. Customers have to wear masks and shields. Their current campaign which also promotes love for the home has also helped promote their store for consumers to spend money in. It’s important that consumers feel confident going out of their homes, and establishments can do that by building consumer confidence.

“We’re all stuck because we’re so afraid of the virus, but by businesses showing that they strictly follow health protocols and that they will really do everything to prevent any contamination or transmission in their establishment, it will encourage people to go.” —CONTRIBUTED

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TAGS: Christmas shopping, Rosemarie Ong
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