By Revin Mikhael D. Ochave, Reporter

LOCAL retailers remain optimistic about strong holiday sales despite the threat of the potentially more contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.

Retailers are looking forward to “revenge spending” during the holiday season, said Steven T. Cua, president of the Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association.

“Barring any strong negative effects or impact from the Omicron variant, the retail industry is hoping to reap handsome sales from revenge spending by consumers this Yuletide season,” he said in a phone message.

“This hoped-for revenge buying won’t compensate for the tremendous drop in sales since the initial lockdown, but it should partially make up for lost sales,” he added.

Further, Mr. Cua said retailers should enforce safety protocols, avoid overstocking to reduce carrying costs, stock up on products, and instill discipline in personnel and customers to prevent prolonged lockdowns.

Retailers are anticipating an increase in spending as a result of the upcoming national elections, he noted.

“For the food retail industry, we look forward to accelerated spending by current public servants and aspiring local candidates who look forward to getting votes or re-elected next year,” he said.

“Christmas is the perfect season to put food on the table for constituents and would-be supporters.”

Roberto S. Claudio, Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) vice-chairman, said in an e-mail interview that the group also continues to be optimistic despite the situation.

“We continue to be optimistic that the Omicron variant will not be as harmful as previous variants,” he said. “For so long as there will no longer be any prolonged or severe lockdown, we can meet our targets for this year.”

He added that businessmen and retailers have to continue operations despite the emergence of the Omicron variant.

“We have to learn how to live with this virus; businessmen and retailers can no longer wait and see on where the Omicron variant will go,” Mr. Claudio said.

Mr. Claudio also recommended hastening vaccination rollouts and enhancing contact tracing to better manage the possible entry of the Omicron variant.

“More lockdowns will not solve the virus problems if the medical issues are not addressed,” he said.

“We will instead create two problems of economic and medical proportions. We need economic activities to address the economic issues.”

The Department of Health recently said there is still no indication that the Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa, has entered the country.