The pandemic has reshaped the retail industry
landscape. But no matter the challenges, the
largest mall chain in the Philippines, SM Supermalls, is quick to adapt
and address the needs of the new reality. Because Filipinos take malling so
seriously, the company deemed it vital to move forward through innovation,
convenience, fun, and most importantly, safety for the community.
“It’s hard to start
something, but it’s even harder to restart.”
Such a timely quote for
the challenging times we are in. But Filipinos have always been known for our
unwavering optimism, sense of humor and, above all, our resilience.
And so this is what we have all been doing —
restarting. After more than three months on lockdown, we begin again and adjust
to the new normal: malls reopen with social distancing measures,
restaurants once again welcome diners at less capacity, businesses adapt new
models to survive, and employees go back to work with safety protocols in mind. We pivot no matter the challenges because we
need to move forward and get the economy moving.
At SM, we see ourselves in
the middle of all of these. After focusing our efforts on working with the Philippine
government in supporting hospitals and frontliners in the fight against
COVID-19, we now put all our energies in helping everyone restart by supporting small and local businesses,
serving the community with their essential needs, and lest we forget, offering
fun experiences to spark some joy during the pandemic that began more than
three months ago.
“ We pivot no matter the challenges because we need to move forward
and get the economy moving. ”
The Beginning of an Outbreak
When the Philippines was
placed under enhanced community quarantine back in mid-March, SM had to close
74 malls in the Philippines. It was difficult but it was imperative to protect
the communities we serve and to mitigate the spread of the virus.
During the quarantine
period, our essential services remained operational and accommodated customers
while observing strict safety protocols.
One of the first steps we
took was to look within the SM family. We secured the jobs of employees and the
livelihood of our tenants. All personnel were retained with their salaries and were
provided with allowances. Likewise, rental fees were waived to help businesses,
especially the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which make up over
65 percent of our tenants. The Sy family, the owners of SM Supermalls, also
donated over P200 million in medical assistance to hospitals in the Philippines.
After months of hard
lockdown, quarantine measures were eased in most parts of the Philippines.
People are now gradually regaining a sense of normalcy and we want them to
somehow make up for the lost time by offering them a redefined shopping and
dining experience at SM — safer, controlled, more convenient, but still fun and
While some people are excited to go out, we are aware that many are still
scared and anxious about the situation. SM Supermalls felt the need to address
this because, realistically, we will eventually need to go out for groceries
and other errands, and our malls are the best places where it can all be done
in one go for the sake of efficiency and safety. That’s our promise,
To ease the fear of our
customers, we launched the #SafeMallingAtSM campaign very early on, where we
went beyond implementing stringent IATF and DTI policies and guidelines to
ensure the safety of our mall-goers.
From the beginning of the
community quarantine until now, all our malls have been consistently observing
enhanced sanitation and hygiene efforts, such as the regular deep cleaning and
disinfection of high touch areas and restrooms. SM’s safety protocols also
include enforcing social distancing, temperature checks, face mask requirements,
and store and restaurant capacity limitations.
Furthermore, we have
deployed safety protocol officers around the malls and installed thermal
scanners, UV protective equipment, automatic alcohol dispensers, and improved
air filter systems for fresh air circulation to help ensure the well-being of
Reshaping the Retail Industry
To cater to everyone's
needs amid the crisis, we have expanded our online shopping platforms. We also
set up curbside pickup stations and partnered with various third-party delivery
companies such as Grab, Foodpanda and Lalafood.
SM tenants have also adapted
touchless and cash-free payment options, like AliPay, WeChat Pay, GrabPay,
GCash, and other mobile payment portals, to lessen physical contact.
With many of our shoppers
shifting to biking as their main mode of transportation, we teamed up with bike
shops, such as Bike Plus, to make the SM malls more biker-friendly. We created
additional bike parking areas and put up vending machines that will sell things
bikers may need.
With the easing of
quarantine protocols, SM Supermalls has also resumed the operations of
department stores, bookstores, dining outlets, and SM Cyberzone for gadget
needs and repair, among many others.
With the reopening of more
restaurants, we have launched the #DineInSM campaign that will allow our
shoppers to discover a new and safe dining experience at SM Supermalls. Since the IATF only allows 30-percent
capacity in restaurants, we have allocated our big event centers and atriums as
Designated Dining Spaces. To make sure everyone has an awesome time while
dining, we came up with different themes for our malls. For instance, if you’re
a fan of Korean drama TV shows, I recommend you check out SM Megamall, which
has created a dining area called, Seoul Spot, at Mega Fashion Hall. Of course,
we also came up with creative ways to remind people of social distancing.
We also did not let the
pandemic stop us from hosting fun events to keep Filipinos entertained while they
are at home. For example, we provided an electrifying musical
experience with Pinoy rock icon Bamboo last Independence Day through
a virtual concert titled Freedom Rocks, which was
streamed via Zoom in Philippines. It was a first for us at SM and we hope in
some small way, it helped brighten our customers’ day.
We partnered with
Safeguard on the 5 Proper Steps to Handwashing, called #SafeHandsAtSM campaign.
They provided our restrooms with Safeguard liquid soap and we, in turn, will
teach our mall-goers the right way to wash hands to keep germs away.
Because SM started out as
a small shoe store, helping MSMEs and the economy is one of the reasons why we
need to keep our malls open amid the pandemic. In addition to supporting our
MSME tenants, we recently supported farmers through the Farmers Produce project
with the Department of Agriculture and Resto PH. Through this project, various
SM malls will be selling fresh local products such as fruits, vegetables, meat,
and dairy at farm-to-table prices.
In celebration of MSME
Month this July in the Philippines, the Farmers Produce project will have food
markets in SM Aura and Podium, where you can buy special menu items prepared by
SM’s tenant-restaurants using local products.
While we wait for a
vaccine, there will still be a
lot of uncertainties, but we must
all do the best we can in our own way and move forward. SM Supermalls believes
in the resiliency of Filipinos and they inspire us to keep striving to do our
best to offer innovation, convenience, fun, and most importantly, safety for
We believe this is how we
will restart and bounce back together.