Philippine retail business is thriving

By James A. Loyola

The retail business in the Philippines remains vigorous and upbeat even as many large format stores are rightsizing and shopping centers closing down in other countries.


SM Supermalls COO Steven T. Tan at the Nikkei Business Forum SM Supermalls COO Steven T. Tan at the Nikkei Business Forum

In a recent Nikkei Business Philippines-Japan Investment Forum in Tokyo, Japan, SM Supermalls Chief Operating Officer Steven T. Tan said a combination of market forces is fuelling consistent growth in the Philippine economy and consumer purchasing power.

These forces include robust overseas Filipino workers’ remittances and sustained activity in the business process outsourcing industry.

“Unlike how it is in many parts of the world, retail in the Philippines is vibrant, upbeat and full of opportunity,” Tan said in his address before a gathering of 500 CEOs and business leaders in Japan.

He noted that, the growth of the Philippine economy, supported by the government’s massive infrastructure push, is directly impacting consumer sentiment in the Philippines.

As of end-September 2019, consumer confidence in the Philippines was the second highest in the world, a shade behind India.

“Optimism to spend among Filipinos is more than just a sentiment. We see it translating into actual consumer behavior, especially retail,” Tan added.
With robust consumer sentiment and activity, total retail sales in the Philippines grew 6 percent in 2018.

“It is interesting to note how brick-and-mortar retail continues to dominate and how it will continue to grow alongside the growth of Internet retailing in the Philippines. The Philippine environment is conducive to all kinds of retail, both digital and brick-and-mortar as we look at opportunities in both channels,” Tan said.

With such forces at work and to borrow the government’s tourism mantra, retail is still “more fun in the Philippines” due to optimistic consumers and a thriving mall culture that continue to draw foreign retailers.

The attractiveness of the Philippine market to foreign retailers is further enhanced by an average rental rate that is highly competitive when compared with other ASEAN countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia.

He encouraged Japanese retailers to consider three immediate opportunities in the Philippines: Food, Beauty, and Health & Well-being as there is growing interest in Japanese brands in the malls.