Better days to come

HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes - The Philippine Star

Just recently, property consultancy firm Colliers Philippines conducted a survey with very interesting insights as to how Filipinos see the new year in terms of their business, work, as well as personal activities.

With 70 percent of the respondents revealing that 81 to 100 percent of their employees are already vaccinated against COVID-19, with about 45 percent of the country’s eligible population full inoculated as of Nov. 25, and the number of vaccinated individuals expected by government to reach 50 million by the end of 2021, Colliers said it believes that the reopening of the economy and resumption of more businesses will play a crucial role in reviving office space absorption. This, it added, is in line with its forecast of a recovery in office leasing in 2022 which should also signal a gradual rebound of lease rates.

Thirty-four percent of the respondents said that at least half of their workforce is returning to their traditional offices starting 2022. Colliers explained that this means occupiers are still considering a hybrid working model including a work-from-home (WFH) and on-site operations. Meanwhile, 31 percent answered that all their employees will work onsite this year.

Colliers said that any rebound in office leasing will be supported by the successful COVID inoculation which should allow more employees to report back to their offices. But despite the implementation of WFH arrangements, it noted that some firms, including outsourcing companies, continue to look for office space across the country and that these leasing queries should materialize over the next 12 months and should result in greater office space take-up.

Majority or 64 percent of the respondents revealed that they are likely to buy a condominium in Metro Manila if they can get extended and flexible payment terms. According to Colliers, it has observed select developers offering attractive payment terms to potential investors as well as new promos that include reserve now, pay later schemes with 50 percent lower reservation fees, free furniture and parking slots, and up to 20 percent discount on the total contract price for selected projects paid on the spot with cash. Colliers advised developers to further sweeten their promos and discounts to recapture demand in the residential market, and for buyers to be proactive in monitoring projects with discounted rates, both in the pre-selling and secondary market.

When asked which freebies/amenities from co-living operators will likely lure them back to their facilities, 59 percent of the survey respondents chose high-speed internet, while 18 percent opted for discounted utilities such as water and electricity, and 16 percent, free co-working space.

Colliers said that with the volume of traffic in Metro Manila returning to pre-COVID levels according to the Metro Manila Development Authority, co-living will be a popular option among employers and their workers. As of Sept. 2021, Colliers recorded about 7,200 co-living beds in key business hubs, expecting an additional 6,000 beds in these areas from 2022 to 2023, with the Bay Area accounting for more than 50 percent of upcoming supply.

In its report, Colliers disclosed that co-living operators have upgraded their amenities to attract and retain tenants and are offering free housekeeping and laundry services. Some operators also bundle flexible workspaces with a free stay in a co-living facility. Colliers recommended that operators provide attractive lease terms to tenants to include discounted rental rates for long-term contracts of between six to 12 months.

Meanwhile, when asked what is preventing them and their families from using leisure in malls, about 87 percent of the respondents cited health and safety concerns for not visiting malls while five percent cited store closures. This, Colliers noted, has resulted in mall operators reporting low consumer traffic, which is estimated to be between 50 to 60 percent below pre-COVID levels.

Colliers expects the increasing vaccination rate and further easing of lockdowns in Metro Manila to encourage more consumers to visit malls and to spend, even as it called on mall operators to continue highlighting their strict health and safety protocols to ensure a safe shopping experience.

The survey also asked the respondents as to what online shopping or e-commerce platforms should improve on and about 34 percent said that these platforms must improve on logistics and committed delivery times while 27 percent chose more discounts and innovative promos and 20 percent, quality and immediacy of customer service/feedback. Colliers recommended that mall operators, retailers, and e-commerce platforms firm up their partnerships with logistics firms that have modern warehouses and efficient delivery systems for faster order fulfillment.

They were likewise asked what they are likely to buy from an e-commerce site and 39 percent chose clothing and footwear, 21 percent gadgets, 14 percent home furniture, 13 percent home appliances, nine percent pet food and accessories, and four percent sports apparel. The report recommended that as more Filipino consumers shop online, retailers should expand their e-commerce presence and maximize technological advantages while brick-and-mortar stores should also be proactive in partnering with mobile wallet apps for ease of payment.

But despite the improving rollout of the government’s inoculation program, around 54 percent said they are still not confident to visit retail establishments due to threats from the COVID variants as well as existing government regulations such as age restrictions and social distancing measures. But 46 percent said they are now confident about visiting a physical mall which Colliers pointed out is an improvement over the 38 percent reported in the 2020 survey.

Colliers suggested that to attract more consumers, mall operators should introduce alternative dining options such as park and dine or al fresco dining, open pop-up stores, utilize available spaces such as activity centers for government transactions, and offer exclusive promos and discounts for vaccinated individuals.

More life hacks

Just yesterday, I featured comments from some of our business and governments leaders and personalities in terms of valuable lessons or insights they have learned in 2021. This one is from Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez which was sent after I submitted my piece but I would like to share it now. As the Cabinet member whose office deals directly with the adverse impact that the pandemic had wrought on business activities, his comment is a very worthwhile ending to today’s column:

“If there’s a saying ‘no one is above the law,’ we realized as well that ‘no one is above COVID.’ How a microscopic virus can significantly impact the world is humbling. The world’s economy almost ground to a halt with severe lockdowns, business closures, jobs lost and hardships to multitudes. And untimely deaths were saddest. There are things we have no control of and we realize our vulnerability. But out of difficulties and tragedies, hope and solutions come out. Seeing the indomitable human spirit and the strength of the Filipino’s bayanihan are what make life truly wonderful and beautiful.”

And here is another from esteemed Supreme Court Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, which I believe should be how we should treat each and every day of our lives:

“In life in general, as it is also in business, make the most out of every moment. Time is both fleeting and uncertain; therefore, each day is an opportunity to do good, be better, and exude gratefulness.”



For comments, e-mail at [email protected]

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