That is, if you can really call SM poor.
I remember a time when having Jollibee on a certain place or city would label that place or city “progressive” or “organized”. Now it seems that Jollibee is no longer the benchmark – the benchmark has now become SM. Having this gigantic mall on a certain location labels that place as “urbanized” and definitely “progressive”, if not “economically active”.
After several failed attempts, countless negotiations and speculations, SM City Naga officially opened last May 1, 2009. And this has been greeted by a storm – a literal weather storm. April 29 already saw Naga being ravaged by strong rains and turbulent winds – an uncommon feat during the mid-summer months. The weather worsened as May 1 drew nearer and came that fateful date, a tropical depression was already in the Bicol area of responsibility, several miles away from Naga City.
Yet what was amazing was that no amount of hard rains and violent winds could drive the throng of eager Bicolanos from flocking SM’s grand opening. I personally didn’t visit the mall, not being a mall junkie as some people are, but my brother went there and he reported that despite the hostile weather there were a lot of mall goers. I also learned from a workmate that when she visited SM with some friends, every eating outlet was literally overflowing with people – even Mister Donut, which already had numerous outlets in Naga even way before SM opened. And these other branches, I believe, never saw a crowd as much as half of the crowd that SM Mister Donut had that day.
This leads me to ponder then on the implications of SM to a local city’s economy and what it reflects on Filipino culture.
Having SM indicates an influx of investors to a certain locality. It opens up countless job oppurtunities for the locals thus definitely improving lives and alleviating economic depression. Yet the downside is that local business might suffer from the competition SM presents. This was one of the major dissentions regarding the opening of an SM branch in Naga. Local malls like LCC and Robertson feared that SM might take away all their customers. No wonder that the days spanning the pre- and post-opening days of SM were met with huge sales from both local malls. The sad thing though is that I believe LCC and Robertson would still have a fighting chance with SM. I mean in Metro Manila, SM co-exists side-by-side with Robinsons and Ayala Malls. The key I believe is to ensure customer loyalty through improved services. Yet when we observe the looks of this two local malls, they really don’t have the customer service or the mall aesthetics to compete with SM. And without attracting paying customers, then investors are also detracted from investing in these malls. Already I heard a rumor that a major store in LCC will officially move to SM once its lease contract with LCC expires. If that store closes, it would dramatically decrease customer influx in LCC since that store not just sells products but caters to customer service of a certain company.
I guess time will tell how this local malls would fare with SM. If you’re a Naganueño you must be wondering why I didn’t mention E-mall as an example. I believe E-mall’s location is very strategic and this is its advantage in the game of mall domination. ☺
I must admit though that I am utmostly curious as to what SM City Naga look like. I’ve been to most SM malls in Metro Manila and although not a mall addict (I rarely visit the malls in Manila), I am also craving to visit SM Naga. And I believe that I would be doing so the first chance I got – in my upcoming day-off.
I overheard someone comment that he’ll visit SM once the fad dies down and people get tired of visiting the place. I don’t think that such a day would come. Not for a long, long time. Maybe never. Malls have their way of never decreasing rather increasing the number of customers – buying or not. And to their credit, even with SM around, LCC and Robertson might still have their customers. It’s just that their sales might not be as high as they hope.
Indeed, Naga City is a well-developed and globally competitive city now. I must say, kudos to the mayor and citizens of Naga!