Supermarkets counting on late shopper surge as confidence weakens

Supermarkets counting on late shopper surge as confidence weakens

By Justine Irish D. Tabile, Reporter

THE supermarket industry is expecting heavy foot traffic this week despite a decline in consumer confidence in the fourth quarter due to elevated prices.

“As of last week, there were only a few households buying. There are some, but it is still minimal. I expect after payday last weekend and 13th month pay, which should be out already in the next few days, households will rush to supermarkets,” Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association President Steven T. Cua said in an interview with One News.

Asked for his assessment of purchasing power after a decline of 19% in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas confidence index in the fourth quarter, he said that it is still too early to tell.

“With one week to go, it is still very difficult to tell whether at the last minute people will rush out, have the money and buy the stocks on the shelves of supermarkets,” Mr. Cua said.

“But of course, we are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that people will go out and have the money to buy because people usually buy food last,” he added.

He said the dearth of foot traffic may be due to packed holiday party schedules that are keeping the public away from the shops.

“So, for sure (it will increase), because if not then what do we expect from this year? Last week, there were a lot of company parties and even running into this week,” he said.

“After that, people will start buying for their families, households, and for their balikbayan guests who are expecting a Filipino traditional Christmas celebration,” he added.

Mr. Cua said stocks are sufficient for Christmas-feast items, and that the real problem is distributing the products evenly.

“Last week, corporate buyers were buying in bulk … to give to their employees or to their customers and clients. That is why supermarkets have had to source from elsewhere last week. This week, we expect that it will be the households that will be buying,” he said.

“I hope supermarkets are able to estimate more or less how much will be needed… it will be very tricky and difficult to estimate it properly,” he added.

The Department of Trade and Industry has said that it received reports that items typically served in the Christmas feast — known in the Philippines as Noche Buena — are being sold above the price guide released by the department.

“We haven’t been monitoring among members so I wouldn’t know for sure (if they were sold at a higher price) … this is most likely because they have had to source their goods outside their regular suppliers,” Mr. Cua said.

He said goods are currently in the hands of the distributors and no longer with manufacturers.

“If (distributors’) clients ordered again, sometimes they don’t have any more stocks; these clients — the supermarkets and retailers — would have to source outside these regular distributors,” he said.

“Everybody is doing the tightrope walk. Supermarkets are conservative in ordering … there will be some supermarkets which will probably run out of certain items,” he added.