MANILA - Physical stores will remain essential to the Philippine economy despite the rise of online shops but must learn to adjust to the digital economy, global retail expert Tom Oliver said.
The pandemic may have accelerated the adoption of digital technologies but that does not mean that "brick and mortar" stores would take a back seat, Oliver said during the National Retail Conference and Stores Asia Expo 2022 in Pasay, City.
Many retailers have argued that nothing beats shopping using tangible or physical items.
"Especially in the Philippines, people love the shopping experience. Yes they still stay home more than they did before the pandemic, but they love, you have the shopping culture, you have the mall culture here," said Oliver.
But he stressed firms must evolve along with consumer trends by updating the "brick and mortar" to "click and mortar" model where an online aspect is added to the shopping experience.
In the Philippines, physical retailers such as SM Malls and Puregold, have introduced mobile apps and online to offline shopping options where consumers can order online or via the app and pick up the goods in their preferred locations.
"Retailers really master digital and have to understand how do we create a holistic, unified lifestyle experience that's gonna be "click and mortar", not brick and mortar," he added.
He urged all retailers to not be afraid of changes and see the patterns of consumer behavior to be able to thrive in their industry.
The Philippine Retailers Association, meanwhile, is optimistic the retail sector will recover this year. Its President Rosemarie Ong said the first half of the year has seen more people buying things and services.
Financial institutions have also confirmed that credit card use and consumer spending have started to pick up, with spending going beyond essentials and slowly including luxury goods for some who have money to spare.
"We've seen the revenge shopping as they say. We've seen people going back, many of our people they're going back to pre-pandemic activities. Many of them are travelling already and even shopping," said Ong.
RETAIL SPENDING CONTINUES ALBEIT PRUDENT
But Ong recognized that inflation that reached 6.4 percent is still affecting some sectors and many poor Filipinos' ability to spend, including allotments for essentials.
"When you talk about food, syempre people continue to eat. You just have to be choosy in what you buy. When you talk about clothes, probably you'll be more practical, more prudent," she said.
"Many really downgrade their [purchase] when they buy. We all know the wallet sizes diminished. It has been a challenge," she added.
But Ong is hopeful that the return of face-to-face classes this August could spur economic growth that would also benefit the retail sector.