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Consumer demand growing but not as fast as desired

/ 04:00 AM November 11, 2020

SM Supermalls has already reached 60 to 70 percent of its 2019 sales, but even the country’s largest mall chain hopes the government would do more to help stimulate consumer demand during the recession.

In a recent Inquirer webinar, SM Supermalls president Steven Tan said consumer demand had been improving, especially when compared to the level in the second quarter, or the earlier months of the quarantine, when it hit only 20 percent of its 2019 sales.

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Nevertheless, consumer demand here in the Philippines has been recovering slower compared to SM’s experience in China, where the retail giant has seven malls, Tan said. The difference, among other factors, may have been in the kind of government support exten­ded to the private sector.

“I think the government and the LGUs (local government units) play an important role in this also, [such as] if the LGU is supportive. We see that in China,” Tan said in the Inquirer webinar, which aired live on Monday.

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“The recovery [in China] was much faster than what we have here. I think it’s the government support. The government gave coupons that you have to consume within 30 days or 60 days. It’s driving consumers, the public, to consume and help the economy,” he said.

“I hope we can also do that [here]. I hope the LGUs could be supportive in terms of maybe easing [restrictions], but of course there should be a balance between safety and the economy,” he added.

Tan was one of the speakers during the online event hosted by Inquirer Lifestyle, which talked about the retail sector in the new normal. He was joined by Donnie Tantoco, president of Rustan Commercial Corp., and Janvier Mantecon, chief marketing officer of LBC.

SM was not spared from the impact of the pandemic, which pulled the consumer-driven economy into recession.

The pandemic not only dampened demand, but has also reshaped the landscape of the retail sector. What used to be a pastime for consumers like shopping suddenly becomes a safety risk. Tan said SM invested heavily in technology to ensure safety, such as handrail ultraviolet sterilizers on escalators.

The SM Group has its own contact tracing platform called Trace Together, which requires mall goers—or any client of the SM group—to scan a QR (quick response) code instead of having to fill out paper forms every time they enter a store. The platform is available nationwide. INQ

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