Rizal (CNN Philippines Life) — Lovers of shopping, sitting in cold movie theaters and dining with friends and family, Filipinos love to make the mall their social space. But the COVID-19 pandemic has become a great disruptor to Filipino mall culture. The enhanced community quarantine enforced last March forced malls to remain shuttered for almost six months, until leaner quarantine protocols allowed limited activity for essential goods and some stores to operate. With the economic pressure growing heavy, the government now allows non-essential stores (basically any store that is not the supermarket or pharmacy) to operate with a limited number of customers allowed inside.
Pre-pandemic, malls in the Philippines were typically crowded on weekends, and time will tell if people will feel comfortable enough to venture back into their boxed architectures when the holidays unofficially begin in the country in September.
Strict health protocols within malls have so far made shopping and dining more taxing than leisurely: stores implement a strict one way rule to avoid crowding and limit the number of customers. On a recent visit to Ayala Malls 30th, an electronics store accommodated just two individuals in addition to the staff, who then leaned into the low density as a Zen-like condition with which to replace a cracked glass screen protector.
In restaurants that don’t have the benefit of alfresco areas, managers have mobilized the installation of acrylic barriers and blocked out chairs that patrons may not sit on. It’s a reminder that while reopening malls is a means to revitalize the economy, at the end of the day, there’s still a virus out there.
The dilemma isn’t lost on Swedish fast fashion brand Monki, which is slated to open two stores in two of the biggest malls in the country this month: at SM Megamall on September 18 and at SM Mall of Asia on September 25.
Aline Danneel, Head of PR for Monki shares in an email interview, “In order to be closer to the customer we felt the time had come to open two physical stores where our customers can really get the full Monki universe experience.”
That includes livable and comfortable pieces, like smock dresses or loose hoodies, often offered in several distinct patterns. The higher price point also gives way to better quality items, which is probably how most Monki pieces can outlive the trends by which they were inspired.
They’re also gearing for a marketing campaign centered on empowerment of women from all backgrounds. To celebrate the brand launch, Monki plans on doing a Monki Mozik Live stream on their official Instagram account as well as a collaboration with Marika Callangan, artist and founder of Woman, Create later in the year.
Considering the hard push in e-commerce in the country, it’s a ballsy move to push forward by having physical stores in malls while everyone remains at home. But Danneel assures, “We adapted our store experience to the current circumstances by following strict health and safety routines to ensure a safe and clean environment.”