In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), have struggled to navigate the ongoing crisis. The operational and financial challenges are already a cause for concern, but at the same time, they must also address the needs of their employees, customers, suppliers, and their immediate families.
These, along with other issues were shared by micro-retailers in a Rapid Retailers Assessment conducted by the Philippine Association of Stores and Carinderia Owners (PASCO), which revealed that 42% of sari-sari stores and 75% of carinderias were forced to close during the lockdown, while others had to drastically downsize their operations by up to 90%. The rapid survey also showed that there was an overwhelming feeling of “helplessness” due to lack of available information on how and when to safely and steadily reopen their business.
Through the Safe Stores Movement, a collective of industries is committed to empower and support sari-sari stores and carinderias, providing them with online and on-premise safe stores operational information and customized training courses. These aim to build the capabilities of store owners and educate consumers on practicing safety measures in the ‘new normal’ retail business scenario.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and some of the biggest companies in the fast-moving consumer goods industry, and other stakeholders, organized the Safe Stores Movement and Safe Stores Education — initiatives that will ensure that micro-retailers will be able to restart their business and safely navigate operations despite the crisis.
A formidable public-private partnership to promote safe store operations
Joining DTI in the Safe Stores Movement are the Small Business Corporation (SBCorp); microfinance institutions ASA Philippines Foundation (ASA) and Alalay sa Kaunlaran Microfinance Social Development, Inc. (ASKMSDI); and industry giants Coca-Cola, Mondelez Philippines, Unilever, Procter and Gamble (P&G), Suy Sing, and Smart Communications; with the support of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) and the Philippine Young Entrepreneurs Association (PYEA). Representing what is arguably one of the biggest public-private alliance to arise during the pandemic, this movement ensures that thousands of micro-retailers and small entrepreneurs who play a critical part in the delivery of basic goods to the communities will get all the support they need to get back on their feet and operate safely in the new normal.
The Safe Stores Movement aims to promote safe retail stores operations under the new normal. Its core component is the implementation of a communications program developed specifically for micro-retailers, following government-mandated guidelines, to educate and guide them on the proper conduct of business, with safety, first and foremost, in mind. To enable this, illustrated digital content with step-by-step guides were developed for online sharing, while information drives on good store practices using social media assets and program partners will be implemented. More than 200,000 stores will receive informational posters that present valuable information in an accessible manner from the group.
“The lack of access to information is one of the major difficulties that prevent micro-retailers from reopening,” said Ma. Luna Cacanando, SBCorp President. “By sharing knowledge and information, we can help small retailers to confidently and steadily navigate the uncertainties they face today.”
“Safe Store” kits for COVID-19 transmission prevention will also be provided, consisting of a front store plastic cover, and other protective gears. All these efforts were designed so that micro-retailers can have peace of mind while they resume operations during the pandemic.
Speaking on the importance of supporting retailers and store owners, Ashish Pisharodi, Mondelez Philippines Country Director shares, “As an organization that nurtures strong relationships with our customers, Mondelez Philippines is delighted to support our retail partners at this time. We are all part of one ecosystem, the health of which relies on the wellbeing of each member. That’s why we are committed to supporting the Safe Stores movement. It is an incredibly important step in enabling our community and economy to rebuild as we put the pandemic behind us and work together to usher in a brighter future.”
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