Cebu retailers keeping fingers crossed for ‘smooth rebound’
Ehda M. Dagooc (The Freeman) - October 23, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Rising pressures from online shopping and the lingering threats of the pandemic have not stopped the department stores in Cebu, albeit re-opening is a challenge, retailers are crossing their fingers for a smooth rebound.

“Department stores in Cebu is slowly recovering, customer counts are growing,” said Philippine Retailers Association (PRA-Cebu) past president Robert Go.

Go, who also owns a chain of department stores and supermarket, the Prince Hypermart, said although improvement of daily customer counts is gradual, at least people are going out to shop, not only for food but also for other secondary essentials.

However, he admitted that bulk of brick and mortar business now is on food (supermarket), products that are available in department stores like household wares, clothing, kitchen tools, even those deemed luxuries like perfumes and vanity products are also moving.

Unlike in the “old normal” days, Christmas season gift buying has not started yet, Go observed. Usually, when the year enters “ber” months, gift buying is already evident. Today, people are spending more on their own needs, at least for the months of August until September.

He hopes that gift buying and other holiday related purchases will start to move towards the end of October until December.

Surprisingly, most millennials are going out shopping despite online retail alternative, he added. This young bunch is buying more on personal care products, home goods, and clothing.

For his business, Prince Hypermart’s online shopping portal called MySuki app saw a decline of shopping activities following Cebu’s easing of quarantine rules, Go said.

Rustan’s Department Store

Noting considerable growth in its revenue of digital shopping channels and online-anchored services was noted, the country’s premiere chain of upmarket department stores – Rustan’s Department Store – has been advancing through the challenges brought about by the global COVID-19 health crisis.

Brought up by the retail giant’s Anton Huang during the course of a virtual presser held with members of the press on October 15, the executive cited that “a thousand percent growth” has been happening for the rustans.com site from the start of the year.

The website, which was launched in 2019, has factored in 10 percent of the Rustan’s Department Store’s consolidated sales figures in the course of the pandemic – a state which backs projections by various analysts and firms foreseeing that online-anchored sales portals will go through a growth surge with shelter-at-home measures in place.

In terms of the classes of items that have generally been selling well, Huang noted that the COVID-19 situation has called for shifts in consumer purchasing habits – citing examples like skin care products outperforming beauty products and interest in utility-oriented bags overtaking those that fall in the fashionable cachet.

Footwear – particularly those that fall in the casual or sports/athletic class – have also been hot sellers for Rustan’s physical stores and online channels, along with products that fall in the essentials for the home category.

Metro Gaisano Chain

To better serve its customers during the period of limited mobility, operator of Metro Gaisano retail chain, Metro Retail Stores Group, Inc. (MRSGI) served its customers through its e-commerce and mobile commerce services.

Launched in April this year, shoppers can order via call, text, or online, and have the items delivered to their homes, or picked up at the store. This service has been launched in selected stores, and will be rolled out to the entire network in the coming months.

Metro counts on a stronger digital presence, solid supermarket sales and a robust liquidity position to enhance its performance in the post-COVID era.

For the six-month period ending June 30, 2020, the company still registered respectable sales of P15.23 billion, a decrease of 8.2 percent compared to P16.60 billion for the same period in the previous year.

In keeping with the company’s commitment to put the health and safety of its customers, employees, and partners as a priority, Metro has maintained strict safety protocols in its stores, including the regular disinfection of all touch points and high traffic areas in the stores before, during, and after operating hours.

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