MANILA -- The novel coronavirus pandemic may have affected the Christmas shopping behavior of Filipinos, but this will not stop them from continuing the holiday gift-giving tradition this year.
This is what a panel of experts noted in a virtual session on Tuesday, saying that Filipinos have found ways to shop and show their love for their families as they remain in their homes amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Rosemarie Ong, president of the Philippine Retailers Association, observed a shift in spending and shopping channels during the quarantine.
"As early as September, everybody's gearing up for the most awaited season of the year. But I guess this year is going to be different because of the pandemic," she said in the webinar by Pinas Muna Tayo, a government-supported campaign that aims to encourage Filipinos to support local brands and manufacturers.
"Definitely there are changes in the spending power of people, so there's a shift in the spending and the different channels," she added. "So you have multiple channels, unlike previously where people will really flock to the malls."
Ong went on to point out how the pandemic has changed people's perspectives as they now "focus on what is essential and what is important."
"But definitely, Filipinos will spend pa rin," she said, adding that there has been growth in spending for food and home improvement items amid the lockdown, not citing figures.
"Mamimigay pa rin tayo kasi that's very inherent for Filipinos. Pero siyempre, siguro may budget na ngayon."
On the other hand, Atty. Ruth Castelo, Department of Trade and Industry's undersecretary for the consumer protection group, sees consumer behavior changing this season as people become "more conscious" about their purchases.
"It's because everything is not definite," she said. "There is no certainty in the future so they keep their money in their pocket and they just go through buying essential products like food, personal care items, and home improvement."
She also noticed the trend of "self-gifting," which also helped boost spending during the lockdown, on the other end of the spectrum.
"Self-gifting is also in nowadays, because we all know that we suffer from the lockdown, this pandemic. So everybody has this mindset of gifting themselves because they deserve it, which is good," she said.
Agreeing with Ong, Castelo believes people will continue to shop and give gifts this Christmas despite their limited budgets, saying it's "Filipino nature."
"We cannot take that away. We like giving, and Christmas is the time when everybody gives," she said.
"It's still going to be the same except that this time, the gifts that we will receive or give will be the more practical ones, and the more useful ones. Hindi na siya luxurious, hindi na siya accessories. You would want to give boxes of hand sanitizers for Christmas instead of perfumes and other luxury items. Consumer behavior has changed, but the spirit of giving will still be in us," she stressed.
For her part, veteran broadcast journalist and Pinas Muna Tayo advocate Korina Sanchez encouraged the public to shop for local products online not only during the Christmas season, but on a regular basis.
She began by citing the advantages of purchasing an item that is made in the Philippines amid the pandemic.
"First of all, it's safer for you to be shopping for something local, something that is available in the country because it's something that you can easily return or exchange. The seller is within reach and it supports the economy," she explained.
Sanchez then noted how the quality of Filipino products has "tremendously improved" over the years.
"There are many, many things that you can buy that have counterpart local brands already, from food to beauty essentials, to clothes to home improvement, furniture, and services," she said. "Sa Pinas muna tayo, kasi sino pa ba ang magmamahalan kung 'di tayo?"
Citing her experience during the pandemic, Sanchez said she has reduced spending on things like fashion items, but has been buying more gadgets such as lights and tripods for her work-from-home setup.
Nevertheless, she believes "Christmas is Christmas" and people will still appreciate any kind of gift, especially during these trying times.
"I think they will still appreciate a new pair of sneakers or shades. Pero just as a kicker, it's also good to probably throw in a face shield or a really nice aromatic hand sanitizer," she said.