A NEWLY opened shoe store in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City failed to take off after it was closed by authorities on the same day it held a super sale of its footwear apparel on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, coinciding with the sale of popular e-commerce platforms and attracting a horde of discount freaks who forgot social distancing.
The crowding incident triggered fears of possible Covid-19 transmission.
The management of JS Footwear, which is located on Sanson Road, told Lahug Barangay Captain Hazel Ann Empleo that it had not expected to draw a large crowd before the store’s opening day, which a City Hall official said attracted thousands of customers from as far as Danao City and Naga City.
It retold the same reason to the Cebu City Hall personnel who served the show cause order, which instructs the management to explain certain violations.
The gathering of the crowd could have been caused by viral marketing, a business strategy that uses social networking sites to promote a store, service or product. It relies on an “audience to generate the message of a product or service. Marketing is considered ‘viral’ when it reaches the point where it’s being shared by the public at large rather than just its target audience” (sproutsocial.com).
For its part, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Cebu will investigate if the store had applied for a permit for its opening day sale.
Before it opened its store, JS Footwear’s management had coordinated with Barangay Lahug.
Empleo said she inspected the store with her personnel on Tuesday, Nov. 10.
“They really prepared, but they did not expect to attract a large crowd,” she said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
During the barangay’s inspection on Nov. 10, Empleo said the markers and waiting areas for customers were already set up to ensure that social distancing would be followed.
The store opened at 9 a.m. on Wednesday; however, hours before the opening, as early as 5 a.m., there were already customers waiting outside the store, Empleo said.
The management was supposed to accept only 150 customers on the opening day and in the succeeding days.
Empleo said the store gave coupons to the first 150 customers.
But others still waited outside, waiting for their chance to buy the foot apparel at bargain prices.
“After they opened, it became unruly because many people were already waiting. Some of those who got coupons failed to enter the store,” she said.
Empleo said she later told the management that it should have anticipated such a large crowd since marketing on Facebook offers a wide reach.
After the store’s opening, around 10 a.m., the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) personnel were deployed to disperse the crowd; however, even after the store was closed, the crowd was not totally dispersed right away as most of them still waited for public transport, Empleo said.
Around 10:30 a.m., the Business Permit and Licensing Office (BPLO) personnel served a show cause order to the management and they temporarily closed the store.
BPLO head Jared Limquiaco said the owner or the management of JS Footwear is given 72 hours to file its explanation.
Limquiaco said should the explanation not be acceptable, the BPLO will not grant its business permit.
The store has yet to secure a business permit. It had only paid for the assessment sheet, one of the requirements in getting a business permit.
The DTI also issued a notice of violation to the store for possible sales promo violation.
The issuance of a violation notice signals the start of the adjudication process. If the DTI proves there is a violation, the business owner will be made to pay the appropriate administrative fine.
On its Facebook page, the DTI Cebu shared to the public Article 116 of Republic Act 7394 (Consumer Act), which states: “No person shall conduct any sales campaign, including beauty contest, national in character, sponsored and promoted by manufacturing enterprises without first securing a permit from the concerned department at least thirty calendar days” prior to the start of the commercial activities.
The agency also emphasized that the certificate of business name registration is not a license to operate and engage in business; the management still has to secure a mayor’s or business permit.
The DTI warned other business establishments against holding big promo sales without securing the necessary permits.
“Business establishments are forewarned to secure a sales promo permit from the DTI at least 30 days prior to the commencement of the promo and ensure the promo should not attract a large crowd,” said Ines Cajegas, chief of the DTI Cebu Consumer Protection Division.
Cajegas further said: “Security staff and marshals shall likewise be vigilant on the compliance of social distancing and other health and safety protocol.”
Businesses can apply for a promo permit by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 255-6971 local 302.
Requirements include a duly filled application form, one promo material (such as poster, social media card, brochure and flyer) with complete mechanics, and payment of appropriate sales promo permit fee.
Cebu City Hall’s actions
City Councilor Joel Garganera, Emergency Operations Center (EOC) deputy chief implementer, said the owner will be held liable if there will be a sudden surge in Covid-19 cases in the coming days, and if health authorities will find out that the common place patients had visited was the footwear store.
The councilor reminds the public not to forget to observe health protocols such as social distancing. As seen in some photos that circulated online, most of the individuals were wearing masks, but they failed to observe physical distancing.
“What if there was a transmission? Aside from the shoes, you’re bringing Covid-19 to your dwelling,” Garganera said.
Around 6 p.m. Wednesday, Empleo sent another barangay official to inspect the store. The store was still closed.
Since more sales are expected to take place as Christmas is approaching, Garganera urged establishments to coordinate with the EOC and CCPO to control the crowd.
Mayor Edgardo Labella, for his part, said the city’s economy is still trying to bounce back and an incident like this may cause the city to be placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) again wherein most establishments have to close down.
Cebu City and the rest of Cebu Province are under modified general community quarantine, which has reduced restrictions on public movement and allows the reopening of several businesses.
Labella reminded the public that the threat of the Covid-19 is still around.
The mayor said Cebu City cannot afford to be placed under ECQ again as it will pull the recovering city economy back to square one.
“Unsa man ang mahitabo kanato kon mosaka usab ang mga kaso (What will happen to us if the cases increase again)?” Labella said.
“Dili makaya sa atong kagamhanan ug ekonomiya nga mopailawom ta og usa na pud ka lockdown (The city government and economy can no longer bear it if we are placed on lockdown again),” he added.
JS Footwear’s statement
At 5:30 p.m., seven hours after the store was closed, JS Footwear posted a short message on its Facebook page, saying, “Everything is under control.”
“Together with the barangay officials of Barangay Lahug, rest assured we will bounce back,” read a portion of its message.
It also said no one could drag it down from its mission, which is to “provide affordable and quality shoes” to its fellowmen.
JS Footwear also wrote that its staff is on full force to accommodate online orders, adding customers can message the store on its Facebook page. / WITH JOB