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Quarantine forces retailers to go online, innovate

Updated: Jun 15

Retailers are going online or expanding their delivery and payment options in response to the quarantine restrictions imposed by the government to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In its market intelligence report on April 22, the Philippine unit of real estate services company Colliers International noted how the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon has allowed retailers to innovate.

The company also noted how brick-and-mortar stores are forced to expand their online presence to reach more customers and respond to the social distancing measures being implemented by the government.

Colliers said this will result in an increase in e-commerce penetration in the country from the 39% recorded by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in 2018.

“We see this rising in the near term as retailers, mall operators, and consumers respond to the need to sell and buy essential items online,” the real estate company said.

General quarantine restrictions were first imposed in Metro Manila on March 15.

These were expanded to Luzon and intensified into an ECQ, under which public transportation are suspended and all citizens are required to stay at home except the essential personnel and those on supply runs, on March 17.

Other local government units (LGU) in the country soon followed, as cases of infections increased.

Cebu City went into an ECQ on March 28 while the rest of Cebu province went on lockdown and closed its borders with Cebu City on March 30, 2020.

With the stringent rules under an ECQ, consumers are forced to explore social media to find retailers who deliver basic supplies and consider online shopping portals as an alternative to doing regular supply runs.

Under an ECQ, only one person per household is allowed to go out and buy groceries or do some errands.

Related story: Businesses with delivery services thrive during quarantine period

In a report on April 16, online jobs portal Jobstreet noted how the retail sector has started to change the way they operate and adapt to the new normal.

Aside from transitioning to digital, Jobstreet noted that grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and other establishments that have remained open have upgraded sanitary measures.

“Most establishments started offering free alcohol and hand sanitizers for their customers. Frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles and ATM machines, were being cleaned more regularly. Soap and tissue were more available in bathrooms,” Jobstreet said,

Some retail establishments have also taken steps to protect workers by providing them with face masks or face shields, among others.

Popular brands, meanwhile, have started taking part in relief opportunities.

“Malls have been donating to frontliners and the less fortunate. Designers have been creating PPE (personal protective equipment) and face masks. In the midst of the global crisis, retailers—whether conglomerate or SME—have become a light to those suffering,” the Jobstreet report said.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved on April 23 the recommendation to extend the ECQ until May 15 in Metro Manila, Cebu, Cebu City, Davao City and 23 other provinces in the country.

Before April is over, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases is hoping to finalize post-quarantine measures that will retain social distancing measures.

The novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, has infected 7,777 persons in the Philippines as of April 27, 2020, including 501 who had died and 862 who have recovered from COVID-19.

Worldwide, the World Health Organization recorded more than 2.87 million infections. Of the total, 198,668 had died as of April 27, 2020. (Ventures Cebu)

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