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Ms. Rosemarie B. Ong - PRA President and SEVP-COO of Wilcon Depot

Philippine retail and how it emerged amidst the pandemic

The challenge of adapting new innovations paved the way for recovery.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Philippines, the government implemented intermittent community lockdowns to contain the viral spread. Whilst the lockdowns were a measured response to the public health threat, it significantly disrupted the growth and productivity of industries, in particular the retail industry.

Once restrictions eased up due to continued vaccination efforts and lower average daily Covid cases, retail slowly picked up into a recovery pace, making retailers much more optimistic for a progressive year. Establishments are now better equipped to handle the continuing challenges, in cooperation with a local populace that is fully vaccinated and have incorporated safety measures into their daily lives.

Technology and the necessity of the online experience

E-commerce and online shopping saw an uptick as lockdowns shut down establishments and necessitated door-to-door deliveries instead of the usual run to the store. With this shift in consumer expectations and preferences, retailers welcomed the challenge and embraced technology and innovation in providing customer satisfaction both through online and offline
channels.

Having an online presence, especially in social media, lets retailers connect with consumers and engage to have an idea of what the trends are present in their market. Traditional brick-and-mortar stores complement their services with digital options that enable contactless payment and other innovations in conveniences that lead to a more pleasant and seamless
customer experience.

Omnichannel consistency on all contacts depends on seamless experience on each channel, with the need to remove the “friction” a vital step towards ensuring customer loyalty to the brand or establishment. This can be achieved through tighter integration of online and offline touch points, new retail models, convenient and fast delivery, and diversifying options for payment and other enablers.

Occupational safety, business health, and sustainability

Whilst restrictions have eased up, there’s no denying the fact that the threat of the pandemic still looms over the heads of employers and employees alike. The Philippine Retail Association (PRA) advocated for efforts to help retail members cope with the challenges brought by COVID-19, such as negotiating rent concessions during the lockdowns and community quarantines that led to establishments reducing or, at most, stopping operations.

The PRA also collaborated with relevant government agencies in dealing with the threat of the virus. Such efforts included participating in the private sector’s initiative to procure vaccines and inoculate its manpower to ensure safety for both employees and customers and advocating the implementation of minimum health and safety protocols in stores and offices.

One effect of the pandemic was the surge of Micro and Small Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), where many people were forced into becoming small retailers or home-based businesses. The mgovernment intervened to protect small businesses with efforts such as tax subsidies, more accessibility to credits, and easier business processes.

Complementary to the government’s efforts, the PRA provided webinars to reach out and provide learning opportunities for retailers and industry stakeholders to assist them in navigating the unique set of challenges brought by the pandemic. These webinars provided the insight that the future of retailers is more competitive through the use of the right digital and analytical skills integral to the operations of physical and online stores, tech-driven strategies, and more social
responsibility.

The association also held Retail Excellence Seminars which included different learning programs to make member retailers more competitive in the global market as well as assisting in their business. The PRA also holds the National Retail Conference & Stores Asia Expo (NRCE) where top retailers converge in the largest and most important retail event in the country.

Sustainability has become one of the primary goals and direction of many companies around the world, brought about by the current crises experienced in health, economy, and environment, leading consumers to demand proactive and responsible business practices in order to protect the environment.

In line with this, the PRA initiated a campaign named The Green Project, which aims to promote environmental awareness among members and influence retailers to adopt a more sustainable approach in business, which includes the basics such as the reduce, re-use, recycle (3Rs) of waste management and the establishment of a greener retail industry. The PRA has added environmental sustainability in its advocacies, along with socio-economic development and social responsibility.

Ripple effect of the Russo-Ukrainian War

With no end yet in sight, the Department of Finance reassured the local market that there will be no direct effects from the ongoing crisis in Ukraine as neither Russia nor Ukraine are major trade partners of the country. However, the effects will be indirectly felt due to the continued rise in prices of commodities and the uncertainty present in investment and financial markets.

The Philippine government has created measures to soften the impact on the local economy, which includes subsidies to affected sectors, proposal and promotion of energy conservation, and the offsetting of external risks by easing pandemic restrictions to stimulate economic activity.

The 17th Retail Asia Awards is presented by Retail Asia. To view the full list of winners, click here. If you want to join the 2023 awards programme and be acclaimed for your company's outstanding retail initiatives, please contact Jane Patiag at [email protected].

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