MANILA - SM Supermalls is sticking to its plan to build 5 to 7 malls every year until 2024 despite the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the mall operator said on Wednesday.
SM adjusted their timeline to five years, from their earlier target of delivering 17 new malls from 2020 to 2022.
"Because of the restriction in construction...it has slowed down [opening of new malls]. But we are business as usual, the plan has not changed. We have adjusted our timetable, but for our five-year business plan, it's still the same," SM Supermalls President Steven Tan said.
Despite the pandemic, SM managed to open two regional malls at the end of 2020 namely, SM Mindpro in Zamboanga and SM City Butuan.
The country's biggest mall chain also expects the number of mall-goers to go back to pre-pandemic levels by the latter part of 2021, as it bets on the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines starting this year.
Tan said 2021 is a "year of recovery", noting that their malls' foot traffic already increased to more than half of the volume seen in 2019
"We started with 18 percent [at the height of] the pandemic... we are now at 50 percent to 60 percent of pre-COVID level," Tan said during a business forum on Wednesday.
While consumer confidence is not yet fully restored, Tan said SM is learning from its malls in China on driving foot traffic and using technology.
"China is now back to normal [capacities]...There is now more spending, and they innovate and use technology very early...[We ensure that] a brand has to be shoppable and shippable," he added.
SM has 8 malls in China and is constructing SM City Yangzhou and Phase 3 of SM City Xiamen at present.