Retail Spotlight: Mariana Zobel de Ayala


The young and modern retailer talks about the importance of malls today

It’s not difficult to miss Mariana Zobel de Ayala in a crowd with her tall stature and mestiza looks, but one can get even more captivated by listening to the young Ayala talk about her insights and plans as the General Manger of the Ayala Malls The 30th.

Managing The 30th

The eldest daughter of Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Lizzie Zobel, who had her share in managing projects under the Ayala Land, and is currently assigned to oversee the Ayala mall in Pasig relayed that the most exciting thing about her work is that “every day is different” and she, along with her team handling the mall has to be attentive to see what works for the market and not, as well as make necessary adjustments to serve their customers better.

“When you work in retail, it’s appealing to what I like to call the “happy money” of the Filipinos,” she enthused.
“It’s where they choose to spend their money. It’s where they choose to spend their disposable income. So, it puts us in a position where we have to be extra competitive because customers are discerning when it comes to this “fun money” and “fun spent.”

The 30th Mall is a bit of a late comer in Ortigas area, which already hosts a handful of bigger malls, but the new kid on the block begs to differ and wants to offer something new, especially to residents in the area.
“We really doubled down on the fact that we have a more intimate size and use that to our advantage in building more of a clubhouse community lifestyle format,” the young Ayala shared.

“I think it has worked for our market specifically because the residential A market in the area tends to look for a less overwhelming experience when malling.”

By visiting the mall, one can agree that the design and layout has really been well thought of. There is an open air patio at the center of the mall which offers a green space, a trademark of an Ayala mall. The 30th is four-floor tall and sits in two-hectare land, near residential condominiums The Renaissance and The Alexandra, as well as Valle Verde subdivision

Getting tech to the retailers’ advantage

As a retailer belonging to the “millennial” generation, Mariana sees that being born in a digital world can be used to one’s advantage.

Being part of a generation where cellphone is a part of growing up and there is more exposure to the internet, she recognizes that the flow of information and digital literacy is faster.

“So we’re trying to use it to our advantage and the speed to customer has never been faster, so hopefully we can use that digital channel to our advantage,” she mused.

“Speed to customer and speed to market is great. On our end, we’re watching the market closely in terms of technology and e-commerce and we really see ourselves as a key relationship for the tenants,” she continued.

However, Mariana believes that there is still a good number of years before e-commerce becomes mainstream in the country. The challenge now is that retailers must learn to evolve and add digital experience to the customers, even while maintaining a brick-and-mortar store.

Malls—a place for Filipino families

And while digital transformation and e-commerce have created disruptions in the way retailers connect with the customers, for Mariana, malls have a great role to play in the lives of the Filipino family that goes beyond consumption.

“Our role is really being a gathering place for Filipinos. At Ayala we take a lot of pride in parks and green spaces that we provide in our malls. And in that, I think that we have developed a more holistic mall product which is an outlet for being with family, for eating, and for celebrating.”

She added that a wide range of services including education outlets, after-school programs, and government offices are offered within malls so as there is a one-stop place for the family to do their errands.

It rings true as the Filipinos are innately fond of going to the malls, especially during hot days, vacations, and holidays, where they can just chill with the family, buy things, or afford services.

But apart from these, The 30th General Manager sees that malls can be a place to hone and promote different interests of the Filipinos by becoming a platform for various events and activities.

“And also, using our malls as a platform for other interests and passions that the Filipino has—anything from sports to community-building, to arts and culture. And I think as we continue doing so, we’ll still stay relevant to the Filipino.”

Mariana is now the Deputy Head of Ayala Malls. With such enthusiasm and passion in her work, it is exciting to see what else Mariana Zobel de Ayala plans for the further development of other Ayala Malls around the country.


View her video interview: Here