By: Business World
SM Investments., the owner of the Philippines’ largest mall operator, is speeding up efforts to develop “omni-channel” options for shoppers as people shift to a mix of online and in-store purchases amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The group is tapping personal shoppers, ramping up delivery and pick-up services, and boosting its online presence, said Steven Tan, president of SM Prime’s mall unit. Last month, the group started operating a virtual mall for Manila residents, which it plans to roll out nationwide soon, he said.
Filipinos are returning to malls as virus quarantine curbs ease but shopping habits may have changed, Mr. Tan said. People visiting malls are those purposely buying and not just window shopping, he said, forecasting that by the third quarter of next year, sales of tenants at SM malls will be back at end-2019 levels.
Sales of SM shopping center occupants are at 60% to 70% of pre-pandemic levels, up from about 20% in the early months of Philippines’ reopening in May and June after a two-month lockdown, he said. Foot traffic is about 40% of what it was before the coronavirus. SM plans to gradually restore rents in 2021 after waiving most of the tenant fees this year, Mr. Tan said.
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