Business of happiness: How malls plan to weather e-commerce rise

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(Source: ABSCBN News | February 28, 2018)

A deep mall culture, wherein the giant air-conditioned structures are at the center of happy family activities, will help brick and mortar retail withstand the rise of e-commerce, industry stakeholders said.

The country’s largest mall operator, SM, is “bullish” on retail, said SM Investments vice chairman Teresita Sy-Coson. The company earlier announced plans to open 21 new malls until 2020.

While growing its physical retail presence, SM is also testing the e-commerce waters. It offered some of its products at a sale event of online marketplace Lazada last October.

“It’s going to be a family place where you can go for your massage, for your haircut, beauty parlor, to look around and all of that,” said Sammie Lim, founder of furniture retailer Blims Lifestyle Group.

Filipino shoppers also want to touch and feel what they are buying, said Philippine Retailers Association president Paul Santos.

“Brick and mortar retail is still growing. People still want tactile experience, shopping physically but e-commerce is growing also because of convenience,” Santos said.

There is a “huge way to grow” for e-commerce in the Philippines, where 10 million people transact online, notwithstanding low credit card penetration, Lazada CEO Inanc Balci told ABS-CBN in a recent interview.

Online shopping is also a way for some to work around paralyzing traffic jams in the capital, Balci said.

Like SM, National Bookstore is also expanding its physical store network while revamping its website to draw more customers, managing director Xandra Ramos-Padilla said in a recent interview with ANC’s The Boss.

Shoppers will soon be able to browse and purchase from the store’s online catalog and pick up the merchandise in National Bookstore branches, she said.

The industry group PRA late Tuesday honored 12 “icons” of Philippine retail, including SM founder Henry Sy Sr, rival mall tycoon John Gokongwei Jr, National Bookstore founder Socorro Ramos and Blims Group’s Lim.

At its core, retail is the “business of making people happy,” said PRA chairman Lorenzo Formoso.

“When a sale is made, whether it’s made for oneself, or a present, in both ways, this give happiness and joy to people,” PRA chair Lorenzo Formoso said.

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