was taken from Bulatlat, the Philippines's alternative weekly
newsmagazine (www.bulatlat.com, www.bulatlat.net, www.bulatlat.org).
Vol. IV, No. 44, December 5-11, 2004
Pre-Christmas Sales and Malling Culture in the Philippines
The density of the crowds flocking to the malls for pre-Christmas sales underscores the dominant role that malls now play in the life of the Filipino city-dweller. In turn, the rule of the malls over the urban life of the Filipino can be traced to the advent of globalization.
ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
At the Glorietta shopping mall in Makati City, the crowds have started to get thicker than usual. In a matter of days the Glorietta, together with nearby Shoemart Makati, will be operating on extended hours.
Right at the doorstep of the shops renting space in the Glorietta are small shelves containing goods at discounted prices.
It’s the Christmas season once again. And in this Third World country, where malls dominate the urban scene, the Christmas season has become known to be something other than the time to commemorate the birth of He who preached on the brotherhood of all men: it is now also known as the season of pre-Christmas sales, courtesy of the malls.
But first things first. What is a mall? Wikipedia.org defines a mall thus: “A mall is a shaded avenue or open space, such as The Mall in London or The Mall in Washington DC. In recent decades in many countries, the word mall has also come to mean a shopping mall.” A shopping mall, meanwhile, “is a building or set of buildings that contain stores/shops and have interconnecting walkways that make it easy for people to walk from store to store,” the online encyclopedia explains further.
The density of the crowds flocking to the malls for pre-Christmas sales underscores the dominant role that malls now play in the life of the Filipino city-dweller.
And there are several of them. Off hand, the Metro Manila regular would think of the SM malls in the cities of Mandaluyong, Las Piñas, Quezon, Makati, and Parañaque; the Robinson’s Galleria, Robinson’s Place, the Shangri-la Plaza Mall, the Glorietta, the Starmall, Harrison Plaza, Ali Mall, and Power Plant Mall. There are other big malls in the country’s other major urban areas like Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.
It used to be that the only malls in Metro Manila were Ali Mall in Cubao, Quezon City and Harrison Plaza in Manila. The SM City in North Edsa was build in 1985, but for a long time it was the only Metro Manila mall aside from Ali Mall and Harrison Plaza.
Malls and globalization
Many will remember that most of the malls that came after the aforementioned three trace their origins to the time of the Fidel V. Ramos presidency (1992-1998). This, as activists and students of recent history will note, was a period when the Philippine economy was increasingly being pried open to foreign investment – at a pace previously unknown.
The suddenly speedy influx of foreign business demanded new outlets for selling imported goods, larger spaces than those the traditional department stores could provide. The wily big businessmen like Henry Sy and John Gokongwei saw in malls the prospects of bigger bucks, and Gokongwei his Robinson’s Galleria and Sy his SM Megamall.
And they were right. Urban-based Filipinos, long bombarded by the “Buy imported, its better” propaganda of the multinational advertisers, got excited at seeing more and more of their favorite imported brand-name clothes and other goods available in greater quantities and, by the law of supply and demand, increasingly cheaper than they usually were.
Other rich businessmen followed suit, and Sy has kept building malls ever since; he is now busy supervising the construction of the SM Mall of Asia in Manila, which threatens to be the biggest mall in Asia once completed.
It is thus that the malls came to be a prominent part of Filipino urban life.
It has become normal to see the malls flooded with shoppers right after the offices issue employees’ paychecks.
The malls are thus responsible for developing consumerism among the urban-based Filipinos. They did it first by increasing the availability of the imported goods that they were “trained” to crave above anything else, and then by making them look forward to the sporadic sales – mid-year sales, year-end sales, pre-Christmas sales, Halloween sales, back-to-school sales.
Consumerism and decapitalization
However, the decapitalization that globalization wreaks on Third World economies like the Philippines has resulted in an ever-decreasing purchasing power.
Which brings us to the particularity of mall life this year. Sales have become more and more frequent. Whereas before we would only see sales in malls during holidays, in the middle and end of the year, and shortly before school starts, now there are sales almost weekly.
Why so? Because the urban-based consumers, with their ever-devaluing money, are increasingly unable to afford the goods that malls sell at their regular prices. So malls have to come up with sales more frequently to entice their customers to keep patronizing their wares. This explains why the malls flourish even as the Philippine economy languishes in dire straits. Bulatlat
© 2004 Bulatlat ■ Alipato Publications
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