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From Where We Sit

Decoding the Christmas consumer

John Endel S. Mata John Endel S. Mata

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the general community quarantine, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) recently announced that mall-wide Christmas sales would be allowed this year in an effort to boost consumer spending and help our limping economy recover. Even with the huge 11.11 and 12.12 sales of top e-commerce platforms Lazada and Shopee, retailers must prepare for the expected surge in spending at both brick-and-mortar stores and shopping websites as Christmas approaches. Filipinos will be scrambling to buy gifts for their friends and loved ones, as well as food, outfits and other needs for their festivities.

So how can retailers prepare for the shopping frenzy? Observing physical distancing guidelines, preparing the physical store layout and ensuring cybersecurity on e-commerce sites are the top concerns that involve heavy cooperation between retailers and their customers. Besides these, retailers should also identify the opportunities involved with huge demand.

Types of Filipino shoppers amid the pandemic

According to a research by Nielsen Retail Intelligence, this year’s Christmas festivities will look very different for Filipinos, as their buying behavior has been altered, creating an unexpected state of flux in the retail sector. As it is crucial to know the characteristics of consumers and understand their spending behavior during the pandemic, Nielsen identified five Filipino consumer groups to help retailers adjust or improve their strategies.

The first group are the “constrained and restricted” consumers who experienced income loss because of the pandemic. They are less likely to shop for the holidays because of the many restrictions on mobility and social interaction. The second are the “constrained but free” consumers, who also experienced income loss and are likely to save money in time for the holidays. The third are the “cautious middle” consumers who were not heavily impacted financially, and are not limited by restrictions. The fourth are the “insulated but restricted” consumers whose income has not been affected by the pandemic, but the restrictions are impacting their celebration. And the last group are the “insulated but free” consumers who were not financially affected by Covid-19 at all.

Retailers must now restrategize and refresh their plans for this year’s Christmas sales according to these new consumer pandemic behaviors and characteristics. Retailers can use several strategies, including offering discounts and bundles, gifts with purchase, warranties, free or discounted shipping for bulk orders, to boost sales.

Reducing risk in-store

As the holidays draw near, retailers have been preparing for the influx of in-store customers. As early as the four weeks leading to Christmas, retailers are trying to flatten the demand spikes that accompany big, heavily advertised sales. By spreading holiday demand across those weeks, retailers would be able to effectively manage store and home shipments, reducing their risk of disappointing customers with delayed deliveries.

Despite the reduction of income, lots of people are still planning to spend money on reasonable, too-good-to-pass-up shopping deals. As the pandemic nears its first anniversary, people are looking for something to celebrate. Many will still brave the malls to shop for gifts, as they miss in-store shopping. However, consumers will still feel nervous about the coronavirus, so they are likely to shop in bulk and make fewer trips to stores.

Retailers must make sure their stores are equipped with IATF-EID-approved contact-tracing forms, hand sanitizer or alcohol dispensers, and temperature checks at the entrance.

The potential and risks of e-commerce

With Christmas a few weeks away, people are looking forward to shopping on December 12, indicating another change in the buying experience and behavior of Filipino consumers. Because of the many limited time offers, many customers have become impulse buyers. Shoppers ask themselves: “Is the price really worth its value?” “Do the products actually meet my needs?” “Will it create and provide me long-term values?” This challenges the retailer to deliver good-quality products that should match or even exceed customer expectations and satisfaction.

There is also the issue of cybersecurity as part of measures to protect consumers and their personal bank account and credit card details. Technology has allowed for e-commerce platforms to place premium protection on such sensitive information, but the risk of this leaking to malicious hackers still exist. E-commerce retailers would need to install monitoring software and systems equipped to raise alerts and perform real-time analysis on the possibility of data breaches. A security information and event management (tool should be preconfigured to the specific demands of the business.

This Christmas, retailers should be ready with their strategies for the rapidly evolving consumer. These must be tailor-fit to his or her current experiences and realities. The key to successfully running a retail business — any business — is, first and foremost, knowing the customer.

Endel Mata is a partner of the Audit and Assurance Division of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory, and outsourcing firms in the Philippines with 24 partners and more than 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @GrantThorntonPH, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to For more information, visit


As published in The Manila Times, dated 09 December 2020