Mall braces for new normal, crafts transition program

READY TO REOPEN. While waiting for the go signal to reopen its doors to the public, Ayala Center Cebu has established a roadmap to help employees, tenants and shoppers transition to the “new normal” shopping environment safely. (Photo from Ayala Center Cebu Facebook page)

IT’S a tough year ahead for the retail industry as it expects shoppers to be less enthusiastic about visiting malls, but retailers need to get back on their feet to save jobs, put their business in better financial shape and stir the local economy once again while keeping in mind the safety of the community.

As it prepares for the reopening, the management of Ayala Center Cebu has established a transition program to help its merchant partners, shoppers and employees face the challenges and opportunities under the “new normal” business landscape.

“It’s a challenging time for Ayala Malls, as it is with all other businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic but we know the closure is necessary to help significantly in flattening the curve and ultimately further prevent the spread of local transmission. Right now, we are just glad that the mall will be reopening, employees will have their livelihood back, small and medium enterprises will somehow recover slowly. Through this, we can contribute to the economic recovery of the city,” said mall general manager Jia Sadol.

In an email interview, Sadol said they have established a roadmap in transitioning to the mall’s opening that prioritizes the health and safety of their employees, merchant partners and shoppers.

“We have rolled out a comprehensive Ayala Malls General Community Quarantine (GCQ) Operating Handbook that serves as a reference to our operations team and merchants, to help them navigate through the modified enhanced community quarantine/GCQ phase as we continue to ensure the overall safety of the community,” she said.

Sadol said once the mall reopens, strict entry protocols will be followed. This involves temperature checks, crowd control and queue management, quarantine pass and valid ID check and maintaining a one-meter social distance at all times.

A no mask, no entry policy will also be enforced. Hand sanitizers will be readily accessible throughout the mall. High touch surfaces such as escalator handrails, railings, elevator buttons and washroom facilities will be regularly disinfected. The mall has also put in place prominent markers and reminders for every mall customer to follow. The mall’s temperature will be set to 26 degrees Celsius and the free Wi-Fi will be suspended.

Starting Monday, June 1 until June 15, Cebu City, along with Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City and Talisay City and Cebu Province and the rest of Central Visayas will be placed under GCQ, a phase that “will allow more sectors to reopen as the government strives to revive the economy amid the epidemic.”

Shop, pick up

Recognizing that shopping activities will never be the same again until there is a Covid-19 vaccine, the mall expects less foot traffic initially as consumers adjust to the “new normal” lifestyle.

“If we were to base it on the other Ayala Malls that opened ahead of Ayala Center Cebu, it was observed that traffic was relatively low during the first week. This may be attributed to the policy on limited quarantine passes per household, as well as fewer shops were able to open due to varied logistical concerns. While we strongly believe that malls will continue to be relevant as social spaces and as a physical market place for goods and services, we do recognize that we need to quickly adapt how we operate to successfully navigate to the new normal,” said Sadol.

While Cebu City was still on a stricter lockdown status since March 28, the mall focused on fast-tracking the use of its digital platforms.

“One of the notable things that Covid-19 brought about is an accelerated shift to digitalization as e-commerce flourished during the lockdown,” she said.

The mall rolled out AyalaMalls DriveBuy, a convenient and hassle-free curbside pick-up facility where one can contact the store and decide where to pick up the items at the designated pickup stations at three major entrances of the mall. Pickup stations 1 and 2 are near Breadtalk at The Active Zone, pickup stations 3 and 4 are near Laguna Garden at Biliran Road and pickup stations 5 and 6 are near The Torque Lounge on Cardinal Rosales Avenue.

“As we welcome everyone back to our malls cautiously and responsibly, our goal is to keep the amazing experience going for our customers in our malls,” Sadol said.

Consumer spending forecast

Meanwhile, Fitch Solutions Country Risk and Industry Research said in a report it cut the growth forecast for consumer spending in the Philippines this year to 3.4 percent from its previous estimate of 5.8 percent.

“Our 2020 revision, taking into account the projected impact of Covid-19 on the Philippines, leads us to project that real household spending will grow by just 3.4 percent year-on-year. This is a downward revision on our pre-Covid-19 2020 consumer spending growth outlook of 5.8 percent year on year,” Fitch Solutions said.

Real household spending in the country in 2019 grew 5.4 percent. (KOC)


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