Malls innovate for safe shopping amid pandemic

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By: Manila Times

Malling as a lifestyle is ingrained among Filipinos not only for shopping but also for dining, entertainment and socializing.

This favorite pastime came to a halt when the coronavirus pandemic broke out in March 2020.

The Manila Times’ first lifestyle forum tackled how malling has evolved for the “new normal.”

The Manila Times Lifestyle and Entertainment Editor Tessa Mauricio-Arriola moderated the forum, which guest speakers included Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Megaworld Lifestyle Malls Tefel Pesigan-Valentino; Head of Marketing of Century City Mall Kim Aiville de Guzman; and Head of Marketing Communications of Stores Specialists Inc. (SSI), Mitch Suarez.

All three presented how their respective retail companies implemented protocols to protect guests.

Megaworld Lifestyle Malls — including Uptown Bonifacio, Newport Mall, Venice Grand Canal and more — placed innovative sanitation chambers and thermal scanners at their entrances. Crowds are monitored and shoppers are guided by physical distance ambassadors. Overall, the company is focused on innovation and collaboration.

“We want to go beyond the prescribed regulations. Instead, we consistently look for ways to innovate and elevate the standard of cleanliness at our malls. We are very much aware that we cannot do this alone. Thus, we established partnerships with different industries to help achieve this goal,” Pesigan-Valentino said.

Megaworld partnered with The Medical City to implement comprehensive sanitation protocols, backed up by medical insights. The collaboration also resulted in medical consultations as well as research-driven technical training for mall staff and employees.

They also collaborated with Safeguard, to set up stations in restrooms to further educate and remind the public that proper hand washing complements the sanitation efforts of the malls.

Another collaboration was with UV Care, a brand that specializes in ultraviolet spectrum or UV-C sterilization to keep homes and other areas safe and clean in a non-toxic way. It emulates the sun’s radiation that can naturally disinfect. This is present in the UV handheld vacuums for common areas, sterilization cabinets for shopping bags, and UV lights for escalator handrails.

One of the biggest changes would be going digital. Contactless purchases and transactions can be done with the help of the “Find Your Faves” program with options for delivery, shopping and curb-side pickups at the malls either by foot or by car. This is done in partnership with top delivery apps or services in the country. Each mall also has a Viber community for real-time updates for store openings and other announcements. A hotline has also been launched for easier access, with a mobile app to be launched soon.

Cashless transactions are being pushed and are done in partnership with apps like PayMaya and GCash.

Pesigan-Valentino said the company moved their events online, including a diverse set of concerts, DJ sets, and content such as live cook-offs, workout videos and script readings.

Connected museums like the Chinatown Museum and the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art have also moved to livestreams and downloadable learning materials.

“We had to make our brand accessible and relevant to our customers for spreading hope and happiness amid the uncertainties,” she explained.

Through the Pinas Muna online campaign, the mall pushed the revival of shopping for local products and homegrown restaurants.

Megaworld Lifestyle Malls will launch a farmer’s market this weekend, first to be opened at Eastwood Mall, to help local farmers earn income and give customers easy access to organic products at affordable prices.

“We believe that there is no better time for us to come together and help one another. And through this initiative, we can all be heroes during this pandemic and save the lives of our local farmers,” said Pesigan-Valentino.

Century City Mall

Dubbed “the mall of modern Makati,” Century City Mall invested in airlock disinfection equipment as well as automated sanitizers, thermal scanners, automatic hand sanitizer dispensers in elevators, and UV-C light disinfectants. There are distancing markers to help guests, while an individual disinfecting machine is used every morning and after mall hours.

For example, their Uniqlo branch utilizes floor markers and helpful directions for retail shopping, whereas Pepper Lunch has installed a plastic cover rather than plexiglass for their restaurant. Additional thermal checks are also done before customers enter these shops.

Mall personnel, service providers such as security guards and housekeeping staff undergo regular rapid testing.

Century City Mall also enhanced its social media content and ways of communication. It continues to release infographics on safety routines and other tips to serve as reminders for the public during the quarantine.

Going online

The SSI Group Inc., the official distributor of foreign brands Prada, Tod’s, Ferragamo, Zara, Superga and Kate Spade, among others, mounted online shopping on its websites, Viber communities and social media accounts.

“The audience that we talk to online appreciate seeing what the brands are doing and it makes them feel that they’re connected in a way and connected with what the whole world is going through,” Suarez said.

“When things eased up, we noticed also that when we were announcing our stores were opening and a new service called The Specialist, people really actually like the announcements and engage with us,” she continued. “Maybe it was because our audience enjoys seeing that there’s a future in what they’re so used to doing which is shopping. It’s really an escape from what we are all going through.”


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