Tina Arceo Dumlao speaks to SM group and Century City group on what makes their malls attractive to shoppers.
People sometimes go to extreme lengths to make that positive first impression. The same attitude of putting one’s best foot forward guides the design decisions of a growing number of retail companies in the Philippines who believe that design indeed is a big factor in the buying decision.
They know full well that given the sea of choices available in the market, they have to make an immediate and lasting impression to win the loyalty of customers increasingly spoilt for choice and informed of the latest trends around the world.
The giant SM group is one such company that has taken great pains to transform the look and feel of its malls to stay ahead of customer expectations. From the traditional, simple and efficient boxy look that had long been the signature design of the SM malls, the designs eventually evolved into bolder and more artistic executions.
The SM Aura in Taguig City, for example, was designed by Miami-based Arquitectonica and drew inspiration from nature. It also aims to be one of the first civic centres to be certified Gold under the US Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) programme.
The design of the 470,000sqm SM Seaside City in Cebu, meanwhile, was inspired by the nautilus shell.
According to architect Fides Garcia-Hsu of the SM group’s engineering, design and development department, the new designs are a huge departure from the original design in the 1980s of the SM malls, which also reflected the need at the time for customers to simply go to one place to get basic needs, instead of to spend time in.
Garcia-Hsu says SM patriarch Henry Sy, Sr provided the direction for the original design of the SM malls and is, in a way, the first architect. In the 1980s, SM malls usually followed a straight or H-path to make it easier for shoppers to find their way from point A to point B.
“Sy, Sr also taught us how to plan the space. He told us that every inch is valuable,” she says, adding that the founder was inspired by his travels to the US where he saw a series of retail stores and major stores put under one space with a common pathway. He wanted the same retail concept in the Philippines.
Fast forward to 2015 and Garcia-Hsu says environmental sustainability has become the paramount consideration and for years to come when it comes to mall development — thus the designs to let natural light in, improve ventilation to reduce use of air-conditioning and the installation of equipment to regulate use of water and to maximise recycling opportunities.
Roof gardens were also incorporated in the malls. Not only do they help to cool the mall, thus lowering the expense on air-conditioning in hot and humid Philippines, but also draw people to the higher floors of the mall. They also retain water during heavy rainfall and reduce flooding.
“The roof gardens we designed for SM make a solid contribution to disaster resilience that should be considered countrywide,” says Arquitectonica’s managing director-Asia, Peter Brannan, in a statement.
“As builders, we know that the most iconic monuments depend on a great foundation. Our approach to sustainability works the same way. By designing green, we are not only making a commitment to revolutionising the retail industry, but we are also creating a solid foundation for future stewards of the environment to build on,” adds Hans Sy, president of SM Prime Holdings Inc.
Garcia-Hsu says as SM pursues more growth opportunities, the group will continue to incorporate sustainable features in the malls such as rain harvesting, water recycling and increased use of solar panels, thus firmly setting the group on the sustainable design path that makes customers as well as Mother Nature happy.
Newcomer Century City Mall, a popular boutique mall just outside the main central business district of Makati and an integral part of the 3.4ha Century City integrated real estate development, has likewise invested considerably in the design of the mall.
According to Marco Antonio, managing director and co-chief operating officer of the listed Century Properties Group Inc, design plays “a crucial role” in positioning a place such as the mall that required Php1.4 billion (US$30 million) to build as a destination.
“As the mall is the public touchpoint of the Century City development, we strongly felt its design should embody the distinct vibe of the community.
“The vision for Century City is to represent the image of Modern Makati,” Antonio says in an interview. “The mall’s modern design is also there for functional reasons. The shape, the materials and the overall white colour all contribute to sustainability and energy-saving features.”
The mall, with a gross floor area of 50,000sqm and a leasable area of 17,000sqm, was designed by Broadway Malyan, an award-winning international design company, creator of the Vauxhall Tower in London and Obel in Belfast, in collaboration with the internal architects of Century Properties.
Distinct features of the five-storey mall include the use of the white colour for the exterior to minimise heat gain to the walls and the roof. The external insulation finishing system prevents heat from rising inside the mall, thus reducing the energy needed for air-conditioning.
Century City Mall also boasts of vegetation on the roof garden to help filter air and reduce the ambient temperature, waterless urinals to save on water consumption and a series of skylight roofs to maximise the use of natural light.
These features combine to give Century City Mall, which has received commendations from the Philippine Property Awards in the Best Commercial Architectural Design and Best Commercial Development categories, its distinct look that has proven to be a hit with customers.
“We did not want to build a typical white box. We wanted to use design to create a beautiful ambience and different experience for the visitors of the mall. We also wanted to use the design to maximise visibility for our tenants,” says Antonio.
“Design is an expression of life, of attitudes and lifestyles. Century Mall’s distinct design revolves around how modern Filipinos live, celebrate and rejoice in the company of friends and loved ones,” he adds.
Telecommunications company Globe Telecom has likewise embraced the value of investing in design to improve the retail customer experience, knowing the competition and growing needs of millions of Filipino’s for phones.
According to Globe Telecom, the Generation 3 stores, which were opened in August this year, are the first of their kind in the Philippines, continuing a tradition in retail shopping excellence that started in 2010 when it remodelled its outlets.
“Our Generation 3 stores bring life to our customers’ digital lifestyle and epitomise the aspirations of our customers,” says Joe Caliro, Globe’s retail transformation and management head.
The Globe Gen3 stores in SM North Edsa in Quezon City and Limketkai Mall in Cagayan de Oro City in the southern island of Mindanao were designed by Tim Kobe, founder and CEO of Eight, Inc, which created the iconic Apple store in
New York as well as the Nike concept stores.
On the future Globe stores, Kobe says in a statement: “Globe is transforming the customer experience in the Philippines and it will send shockwaves far beyond.”
The Globe Gen3 stores are divided into lifestyle zones with features for customers to experience and enjoy. These zones, dedicated to music, productivity, life and entertainment, feature the latest trends in products, people and business. They illustrate mobile and broadband technologies as connected solutions, featuring the latest devices, apps and services for an overall interactive customer experience.
“Globe is proud to bring to Filipino consumers another world-standard differentiated experience. Our passion for our customers inspires us to end the year on a high note by bringing innovation a notch higher in our stores, one of our key customer touchpoints, allowing us to truly empower our customers’ digital lifestyles,” says Ernest Cu, Globe’s president and CEO.
“Retail is one touchpoint where brands build relationships and sell products and services … Designing the experience is critical to building brand advocates.” — Tim Kobe, Founder and CEO, Eight, Inc
According to Kobe, functionality was important in designing the Globe Gen3 stores and that the power of design cannot be understated.
“Retail is one touchpoint where brands build relationships and sell products and services. It is important today to have a place to demonstrate what you stand for. More than 50% of the reason why someone engages with a brand comes from word of mouth. Interestingly, 80% of word of mouth comes from direct experience. Designing the experience is critical to building brand advocates.”
Globe chair Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala also says the retail stores are a way of expressing the company’s gratitude to the customers for their loyalty to the brand and to its services, helping it stay the number one mobile brand in the country and an undisputed leader in the digital space.
“Through Gen3, we introduce a brand-new retail concept that could change the way our customers view the Globe brand and hopefully, their expectations from the telecom industry in general. With Gen3, we introduce a new standard in retailing where focus is not just about selling products but creating strong emotional connections with the Globe brand,” says Zobel de Ayala.
“Many have underestimated the role the retail channel plays in the whole customer experience,” he adds. “It is no longer just a place to sell products but a place to build meaningful relationships with consumers.”