We speak to Kevin Tan of Megaworld, Tracey Castillo of Rockwell, Steven Tan of SM Supermalls and Jennylle S. Tupaz of Ayala Malls to learn the ins and outs of what going to the mall means know that we are in the new normal.
Shopping malls and lifestyle complexes are a massive part of our lives here in the Philippines. “Malling” has become a family-oriented pastime for many Filipinos. “We know that the malling culture in the Philippines is strong. People love to get together,” Kevin Tan, CEO of Alliance Global and chief strategy officer of Megaworld commented. “As Filipinos, we are a highly sociable people. We like to hug and touch our families and friends,” Steven Tan, president of SM Supermalls said in agreement. Spending weekends at the cinema, doing grocery runs, shopping for new clothes, and of course, indulging in a mouthwatering meal were routine to our weekends.
Now that we are settling into our new normal, and hoping for a further flattening of the COVID-19 curve, reopened malls have begun to welcome us all back. Restaurants are slowly opening their doors and streets are filling up with cars once again. I personally felt anxious and nervous to go to the mall to run some errands, wondering how full it would be, or if sanitation protocol would be abided by.
To learn more about how shopping complexes have gone the extra mile to make all of us shoppers feel comfortable, and ease retailers and restaurateurs back into business, I spoke to representatives of the big four: Ayala, Megaworld, Rockwell, and SM.
Greenbelt, Power Plant Mall, SM and Megaworld malls have all invested time, funds, brainpower and manpower into finding the best methods of sanitising and protecting their customers, merchants and employees. In this day and age - you can't be too careful. From sanitation stations, footbaths, mandatory temperature checks, strict social distancing protocols and enforced mask wearing — the goal is to keep these shopping centres safe. When speaking with Kevin he explained that all the initiatives that are put in place are aimed at ensuring a safer and happier experience for all guests, to protect retail partners, store personnel, and employees against the virus.
Kevin continued saying: “[We] have also designated social distancing ambassadors who make the rounds in our malls to encourage guests to observe proper protocols at all times. In fact, we have also deployed a sanitation squad to make sure that common areas and things like the door handles, handrails, and comfort rooms are deep-cleaned at all times.”
There is a science to implementing all these health measures — one that these experts have reviewed inside and out. Ayala Land Malls Inc president Jennylle S. Tupaz says that they “designed social distancing measures and health and safety protocols to follow the customer journey, from point of entry to movement inside the mall to exit, to foster an environment that gives peace of mind to all mallgoers.”
Persons with a greater risk of catching COVID-19 will actually be prevented from entering Ayala Malls. “The youth, senior citizens, persons with disabilities and pregnant women are not allowed to enter unless they are availing of essential products and services. An ID reflecting birthdate is required to follow the directive that only those within 21-59 years of age are allowed inside the mall,” Jennylle explains. She also informed us that they installed state-of-the-art contactless thermal scanners at main entrances to conveniently and swiftly conduct temperature checks. “To avoid lingering and encourage quick and purposeful shopping trips, the mall temperature is set to 26 degrees celsius and WiFi has been disabled too,” Jennyle emphasises, underlining that going to the mall should be for essential errands, and not for leisure activities.
For Power Plant Mall, Tracey Castillo, as the assistant vice president of Rockwell’s residential and retail development, shares that high contact areas in the mall such as the elevators, walls, and other frequently touched surfaces are disinfected every 15 minutes. “Our escalator handrails are sterilised nonstop through UV technology. Our restrooms, including all cubicles, sinks, and countertops are disinfected after every use as well. Aside from floor markers which aid in physical distancing and queuing, we have also designated Mall Security near our restrooms, elevators, and escalators to maintain order,” Tracey expounded.
While all these malls ensure that their escalators and elevators observe social distancing measures, Steven Tan, president of SM Supermalls said that: “We are also executing one-way movement in the aisles of our malls, and our elevators operate only for PWDs, seniors, or pregnant women at 50% capacity.” SM’s employees, including mall staff and frontliners, undergo the rapid antibody testing and their tenants are also directed to do rapid testing on their employees. SM provides PPEs such as face masks and face shields to their staff as well so that there is no excuse for not being able to wear protective gear.
Tracey of Rockwell explained that: “we strive to create a new, convenient, and safe shopping environment for all our stakeholders, we make sure that our store employees are healthy, and ready to serve our customers.” Thus it is no surprise that tenants in all these malls have been given strict instructions to consistently and continuously sanitise high contact touch points, tools and instruments that may be handled by clients and to always put safety first. Jennylle adds that in Ayala Malls all staff who report to work are required to fill out and submit a Health Declaration Form daily prior to entry. Their work-force is also skeletal, operating at 50% capacity. Kevin shares that In Megaworld Lifestyle Malls, “we have partnered with brands such as The Medical City and Safeguard to put the necessary equipment, tools and measures that promote safe hygiene and cleanliness around our malls.”
Although shopping leisurely is no longer an option these days Kevin told me that his conglomerate, Alliance Global Group, together with Resorts World Manila, are working closely with the Department of Tourism and the Department of Trade and Industry for the #PinasMunaTayo programme, to encourage Filipinos to spend and patronise local establishments, products, and destinations in order to help the country recover from the economic effects of the pandemic.
For Tracey, “it’s quite inevitable that customers will feel hesitant to go back to the mall; however, going digital has allowed [Power Plant] to connect with our customers better. Now that [Power Plant] is more connected online, we’re able to improve services faster, and address needs more efficiently.”
“While we strongly believe that malls will continue to be relevant as social spaces and as a physical market place for goods and services, we also recognize that we need to transform how we operate to adapt to the new normal and remain relevant. One of the notable things that COVID-19 brought about is an accelerated shift to digitalization as e-commerce flourished during the lockdown” Jennylle adds. In fact, Ayala Malls did not waste any time. They launched new e-commerce/online platforms: DriveBuy a curbside pick-up service, DeliverEasy a personal shopper service in partnership with MyKuya, and Zing! their new mobile app and concierge service.
With guarded optimism, Jennylle looks forward to better times ahead as they continue to give their best to support to their customers, staff and tenants.
Ayala, SM, Megaworld and Rockwell have have faith Filipino people and are looking forward to a brighter, stronger future.