MANILA (UPDATED) - SM Supermalls said on Friday sales in its 7 malls in China were halved while local sales declined by 10 to 20 percent during the first few weeks of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, as shoppers preferred to stay at home.
"It was a ghost town" in China malls during the first two weeks that COVID-19 was reported, said SM Supermalls President Steven Tan.
In the Philippines, "people are going back" to SM's malls where shoppers are greeted at the entrance with free disinfectant and security guards wearing face masks, he said.
Merchandise and cinema ticket sales declined. Supermarket sales were less affected as shoppers still preferred to do their groceries outside their homes, Tan said in an exclusive interview with ANC's The Boss.
Tan said SM would proceed with its plan to build an eighth mall in China, located in Yangzhou in Jiangsu province, which will add 220,000 square meters to SM's footprint there. One of its 7 current malls in China, SM City Tianjin, is among the largest in the world with a gross floor area of 565,000 square meters.
“We will still continue with the construction of our Yangzhou project… We would still grow our market even in China as well,” Tan said, noting that these malls are not a big segment of its whole portfolio.
The Philippines' largest mall operator also has malls in Jinjiang, Chengdu, Suzhou, Chongqing, Zibo and Xiamen, the hometown of the late SM founder, Henry Sy.
None of its malls is located in the Hubei province, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. Filipino executives of all SM Malls in China were repatriated before the travel ban to and from the mainland was imposed, Tan said.
The Philippines has so far confirmed 3 coronavirus cases, all visitors from Wuhan City in the central province of Hubei, where the pathogen was first reported.
Foot traffic at SM Malls slowed due to coronavirus just as the capital and Southern Luzon reeled from the Taal Volcano eruption.
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