Physical shopping to remain the 'breadwinner' in retail

·3 min read

THE brick-and-mortar store format will still be a breadwinner in the retail business amid the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic, said a top official of a Cebu-based retail giant.

Manuel Alberto, president and chief operating officer of the Metro Retail Stores Group Inc. (MRSGI), believes engaging with customers through physical retail is still an important factor for the group’s post-pandemic strategy.

“Not only in Cebu but throughout in the Philippines, the brick and mortar or the offline stores will still be the bread and butter. I think for the most part, the experience of shopping, touching the merchandise and interacting is still going to be the bread and butter of our business,” said Alberto, during the grand reopening press conference of Metro Ayala, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021.

Testament of the group’s confidence amid a weak business environment is its plan to open more brick-and-mortar stores this year.

“We will be opening a lot of stores this year still. We are focusing on opening supermarkets. We are focusing on underserved countryside markets. We are opening our reimagined compact department stores as well. (So) you can expect more Metro stores in 2021,” he said.

MRSGI’s expansion plans reflect Colliers International Philippines’ projection of continued mall expansion this year.

“Starting 2021, Colliers believes that the pace of construction of new malls will likely hinge on the improvement of Filipino households’ consumer confidence and purchasing power, and retailers’ propensity to continue taking up physical mall space despite the growing popularity of online shopping,” the property research firm said.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the Philippines last year and lockdowns disrupted business operations, Alberto said the group immediately turned to an omni-channel strategy to continue its retail operations. MRSGI innovated by placing experiential retail, with a blend of digital and physical, at the forefront of its business continuity plan.

The omni-channel strategy unites the customer’s shopping experience from brick-and-mortar to mobile browsing and everything in between.

“What we are creating now is an omni-channel experience. Our vision is to make a seamless experience for customers between our offline and online platforms. But offline will still dominate,” he said.

Besides developing the right assortment of goods and launching its shopping website in the second quarter of 2020, MRSGI has inked a partnership with online retailers and shops to cater to the demands of today’s restricted living lifestyle.

In February, Alberto said, Metro stores will come live in Lazada to expand its e-commerce marketplace. The group is also developing its own mobile shopping application.

“The importance of online has increased because of the pandemic. We will continue to invest in online platforms,” he said.

Reopening

Three years after it was hit by fire in January 2018, Metro Ayala is making a big comeback by offering shoppers a better shopping destination and ambiance, and a wide array of products.

Boasting of an eco-friendly design, the newly renovated store now sports a clean and modern aesthetic.

Each of the seven levels of the new building was curated with a selection of premium merchandise that caters to the most discerning taste and lifestyle.

Metro Ayala is the flagship store of Cebu-based MRSGI owned by the Gaisanos.

Shares of MRSGI closed at P1.43 apiece on Friday, down 3.38 percent. (KOC)