CONSUMER buying activities will have difficulty picking up even after the lifting of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), business leaders said.

Prince Retail president Robert Go said even if some retail players will now be allowed to operate under the general community quarantine (GCQ) environment many are still hesitant to resume operations, unsure if shoppers will return.

Go said boutiques and non-essential stores will be forced to make a decision—to open and possibly incur losses or stay closed indefinitely.

“GCQ does not mean people will come (to stores) like before; new normal means people still stay home and save money for food only. They will stop buying not immediately needed or non-essential (goods),” Go said, adding that the lockdowns and the Covid-19 outbreak have forced consumers to reassess how and what they buy.

“They are thinking that by opening without customers, they will lose more,” said Go, who is also the spokesperson of the Philippine Retail Association-Cebu Chapter.

He said public anxiety over the novel coronavirus remains high and this has caused change in consumer habits with more people depending on online shopping and deliveries.

Go noted that some boutique players are now in discussions with mall operators if there would be penalties should they decide not to open their shops during the GCQ and other initiatives that will help lower their income loss.

Social media marketer Anniza Dakay said she would treat the future GCQ like an ECQ.

“My family and I have agreed that even though a GCQ will be implemented, we will still go on as if it’s ECQ until a vaccine is found or a massive mass testing has been done. We aren’t confident of our safety and we will continue to observe strict precautions,” she said.

Seeing the behavior of the virus and recent data which showed that majority of the cases are asymptomatic, Dakay said she doesn’t want her family to be at risk.

“We’ll only go out for essentials, distance ourselves from people and sacrifice,” she said.

Miko Mamac, on the other hand, said he will go out but he would still follow social distancing and safety measures.

“I would go out since somehow, at least in our place, I saw how intent people are in individually implementing social distancing,” he said.

Under the GCQ guidelines, publishing and printing services, film, music and television production, photography services, barbershops and salons, and other non-leisure wholesale and retail establishments (hardware stores, bookstores, school and office supplies stores, baby care supplies stores and pet food and supplies stores) will be permitted to open business.

In a separate interview, Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president Steven Yu said the chamber is concerned about the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that are most affected by the changes.

“Based on the initial results of the GCQ of other areas, the MSMEs are experiencing slow business and below break-even (sales). Instead of preserving cash, they are hemorrhaging,” he said.

With the new workplace standards and social distancing measures, MSMEs are having a hard time coping, Yu said. He noted that MSMEs have smaller facilities, making the new guidelines quite challenging for them to meet.

“It needs more time to understand the ‘new normal,’” he said.