SM taps 'hybrid' approach to sustain retail sales amid pandemic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 24) – SM Investments Corporation says it is taking a new approach to boost sales amid the pandemic, tapping e-commerce channels as Filipinos get reluctant to shop in malls.

"The pandemic has made us even more aware of two important things. For our customers, it's convenience and safety, and for ourselves, it's adaptability and transformation... Coming from this lockdown, we were able to operate a hybrid way of reaching our customers," SMIC Vice Chairperson Teresita Sy-Coson said in the conglomerate's annual shareholders' meeting on Wednesday.

SMIC reported a ₱13.8 billion net income from January to March, 16 percent lower than the ₱16.4 billion profit a year ago.

The SM Group is boosting its online presence to reach out to more customers, as quarantine protocols keep more people indoors. Malls have reopened at limited capacity, with strict rules such as temperature checks and social distancing in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among shoppers.

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The Sy-led firm added that adjustments to the online and on-site customer experience is also being implemented in the group's banking and property businesses. The mall operator waived more than ₱8 billion worth of rental fees to tenants during the peak of the Luzon lockdown.

SMIC President and Chief Executive Officer Frederic DyBuncio added that the company is looking to be a direct participant and service provider for digital transactions. The retailer is boosting its online shopping sites and "click and collect" scheme for shoppers, and is also eyeing to develop its own grocery delivery service. SM products have also been made available in platforms like Shopee, while its banks extended payment networks to Grab Philippines.

SMIC declared cash dividends at ₱4.25 per share for a total of ₱5.1 billion, which will be paid to stockholders on July 23.