LOCAL retails are optimistic about their recovery prospects as mobility restrictions ease, but the effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict have brought uncertainty as rising fuel prices weigh down businesses.

“So far, [there is] greater mobility now in retail. Most of the members are optimistic now, though the conflict in Eastern Europe is another (thing) to watch out,” said Rosemarie B. Ong, president of the Philippine Retailers Association via a mobile phone message.

Ms. Ong said there is still uncertainty since the country is still recovering from the the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and is now facing new issues such as high fuel prices.

Meanwhile, retailers are keeping tabs on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“Everything is still uncertain, we are just recovering from COVID-19 and now, here comes the oil price hike and the conflict in Eastern Europe. But there are many people in malls already,” she said. 

In a mobile phone message, Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association President Steven T. Cua said that foot traffic has not significantly increased in groceries despite the implementation of Alert Level 1 in Metro Manila since March 1.

“Foot traffic has not significantly increased in supermarkets based on my personal visits to them this week. (They have the) same number of minimum check-out counters open. Membership shopping stores (are) not getting the desired numbers either,” Mr. Cua said.

Meanwhile, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said in a mobile phone message that the relaxed mobility restrictions had helped in enticing more crowds during weekends.

“Generally, Alert Level 1 has helped bring back the crowds, especially weekends. But [it is] not yet at pre-pandemic levels. Possibly, people [are] used to the convenience of staying at home and the deliveries. And some offices are not yet fully back or still on hybrid/work-from-home [arrangement] on weekdays,” he said.

Mr. Lopez said it is still hard to predict the impact of the high fuel prices in terms of consumer traffic on retail shops.

“Hard to say yet about the impact of fuel increase. Let’s observe the crowd and the traffic situation in the coming weeks,” Mr. Lopez said.

Since the beginning of the year, the prices of gasoline, diesel, and kerosene have climbed by P13.25, P17.50, and P14.40 per liter, respectively. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave