The Philippines: 'One Big Mall'

The nation's retail scene is expanding, even as tough times hit Asia

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When SM City North Edsa's expanded annex merged with the existing one, the world's third biggest mall was born. The gates of the 425,000- square-meter behemoth officially opened last Friday, December 12, thus becoming the 4th Philippine mall in the World's Top 12 list. Numbers 4, 7 and 11th are also located in the Philippines.

So what's the big deal? A vote of confidence on the country's economic prospects amidst continuing threats of global recession that aren't going away; adding on to the tourist appeal; an eye-opener to those who have vague knowledge about the country's countless investment possibilities and vibrant retail industry.

The event was carried globally by different news agencies on the same breath that Thailand and India were licking their wounds caused by recent tragedies.

Last weekend, horrendous bumper-to-bumper traffic scenes happened simultaneously around metro-Manila malls. Inside, people pushed and shoved, filling every nook and cranny as if there were no tomorrow. If these are indications that Manila still needs another mall of this humongous kind, it can perhaps build the planet's biggest single-roof mall to pack all those mall rats in.

The world's best-known brands are here. World-quality local produce comes in abundant fashion. "Manila, or the Philippines, for that matter, is just one big mall," says a many-time European visitor who has several stakes in the mall business in the country. "From high-end to middle affluent to mass market, it's just simply dizzying!" she said.

The Philippines has at least $36 billion in foreign exchange reserves, according to the Central Bank of the Philippines. This is almost four times higher than the level the country had when it faced the Asian financial crisis a decade ago. Proof of its strong fundamentals and ability to parry advances of recession.

Not a bad story to be telling in bad economic times.

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