By Jenina P. Ibañez, Reporter

Mall foot traffic has remained below 50% of its pre-lockdown levels, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said.

Mr. Lopez in a television interview on Friday said consumer spending is improving as the lockdown eases, but remains far below usual consumption levels.

“There is a general consumer spending slowdown that started in March of course when most areas are under ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) or were under MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine). But now that we’re reopening, we’re seeing consumer spending slowly picking up but definitely still way below the pre-COVID times,” he said.

“Even if you go to the mall, the reports to us, actually they are saying that the crowd nowadays are still hovering around 30%, definitely less than 50% of what it used to be.”

Mr. Lopez said that few consumers are going out to buy products, especially those below 21 years old and above 60 years old. To prevent infection, the government urged them to stay home unless they are working or obtaining necessities.

Mr. Lopez noted many consumers have moved to online shopping.

“What we are seeing is a drastic or significant increase in online consumption, online purchases, e-commerce again because of the circumstances. When people are stay-at-home, online selling ang nauuso,” he said.

In attempts to lure back wary shoppers, malls have been implementing government health safety guidelines including sanitation and physical distancing protocols.

The trade department has been issuing guidelines to reopen and increase the operational capacity of businesses.

Mr. Lopez on Thursday said that a quarter of businesses, based on a nationwide survey of 2,135 companies in June, are either temporarily or permanently shut.

Barbershops and salons may now operate at 75% of their capacity in areas under a modified general community quarantine, and 50% in places under a general quarantine. Dine-in operations at restaurants will be allowed to operate at the same levels starting July 21.

“On the demand side, we just need to make sure that we are able to save jobs. How are we able to save jobs? We just have to support the MSMEs (micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises), support the companies to survive. That’s the reason we have a lot of financing opportunities,” Mr. Lopez said.

Loan applications from micro, small and medium enterprises with the Trade department’s financing arm Small Business Corp. have exceeded its initial P1-billion fund.