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Some SM Malls’ Foot Traffic Numbers Exceed Pre-Pandemic Levels

Some SM Malls’ Foot Traffic Numbers Exceed Pre-Pandemic Levels
A couple enjoys early dinner on Feb. 12, 2021 in one of the dining pods offered to mall goers by SM City Marikina in time for Valentine’s Day. Photo by Miguel de Guzman, The Philippine STAR

Some SM malls’ foot traffic numbers have already exceeded pre-pandemic levels, SM Supermalls president Steven Tan disclosed on Wednesday, Nov. 24, despite the COVID-19 crisis’ blow on the economy.

In an interview with “BusinessWorld Live” on One News, Tan said foot traffic in some SM Malls increased week-on-week. “It started, I think, last October, last month. If you compare week-on-week, it has been growing at least double [digits].”

“Some of the malls have already exceeded pre-pandemic levels like SM Mall of Asia (in Pasay) and SM Southmall (in Las Piñas). We have seen the highest foot fall since the start of the pandemic. These two malls have exceeded I think 120% [of] pre-pandemic levels,” Tan said.

Asked if the same scenario applies to SM malls in provinces, Tan said “yes” since most of the areas where their malls are located are under Alert Level 2, which means more lenient quarantine restrictions are being observed.

Under Alert Level 2, outdoor businesses can operate at 80% capacity if they have secured a safety seal. Minors and those over 65 years old are also allowed to go out of their homes.

While local government units (LGUs) are yet to issue an order when it comes to barring minors from malls, Tan said SM Supermalls had been reminding parents and guardians to ensure health and safety protocols are being practiced when they bring their children along.

“Until now, we have not yet gotten any executive order from the LGUs barring minors to come in to our malls. However, we don't want to wait for that. We have been advising or reminding… that [when] they are together with the parents, when they visit our malls, they have to strictly follow our safety protocols,” Tan said.

Entertainment, cinema reopening 

Tan said the more lenient quarantine restrictions also this gave the opportunity for tenants in SM malls to reopen their businesses. Tan noted as of now, almost all their tenants have resumed their businesses, including arcades.

“We are looking at around approximately 85 to 90% of our tenants that are already open,” Tan said. “The occupancy actually during the pandemic has not really gone down, they have temporarily closed because of restrictions, but it has not gone down. Maybe also because of the assistance that malls have given our tenant partners.”

Aside from this, SM has also started reopening some of their cinemas in select malls. Moviegoers, however, are encouraged to book their reservations online before going to the cinemas.

Tan, however, acknowledged that cinema earnings are not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels yet. The purpose of reopening the cinemas, the SM Supermalls president said, is for solely entertaining the public, as well as warming up for the upcoming Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), which will run from Dec. 25 to Jan. 7.

“It will not be the same as pre-pandemic level, but more than just earning money from it, it's really entertaining the public and getting the public warmed up for the MMFF,” he said.

“We have to definitely gradually open little by little,” he added, so that by the time the MMFF is held in December, people have adjusted to the new normal when watching movies.

'Very rosy'

Tan stressed SM Supermalls has still a lot in store for the public, with plans of opening five more malls by 2022.

“A lot of good things are happening this last quarter of the year, even next year the pipeline is to open five malls across the country,” Tan said, adding that SM will be opening its latest mall, SM Grand Central in Caloocan on Friday, Nov. 26, as well as the opening of the world’s largest branch of the Swedish furniture brand Ikea on Thursday, Nov. 25.

The SM Supermalls president also expressed optimism that they could achieve full recovery in terms of revenues by the last quarter of 2022, saying that the last quarter of this year has been “very rosy” for them.

“This month, October, November, December (look) very rosy for us,” he said. “Most probably it will gradually go up, and I feel the full recovery will be the last quarter next year…that will be full recovery. And by 2023, we are expecting some growth,” Tan said.