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Interview: Perkin O. So of Supermalls on the role of VM in the Philippines

Visitors to Retail Design Expo are travelling from increasingly far afield, as word spreads of its unique offer of conferences, features and exhibitors. Attending for the first time in 2017 was Perkin O. So, AVP of operations at Shopping Center Management Corporation in the Philippines.

The company operates 60 Supermalls shopping centresin its home market, with a further 15 scheduled to open by 2028, and a number of malls in China. Its largest centre, the Mall of Asia, currently offers more than 500,000 sq m of retail space – though it is being extended to offer a further 170,000 sq m, making it one of the largest malls in the world.

The mall won the Shopping Centres, Town Centres and Airports category of the first VM Christmas Awards, for a scheme designed by M Works. So describes the award as an honour for a company based in a nation where Christmas and shopping centres are key pillars of public life, and where Christmas VM achieves a scale unheard of in Europe.

“In the Philippines, Christmas is such a big deal,” he says. “We celebrate Christmas… starting on the first day of September.” The predominantly Roman Catholic country, which was under Spanish rule for more than 300 years, spends around one third of the year counting down to its Christmas celebrations.

“The Philippines is a mall country,” adds So. “People don’t go to parks, they go to the malls for everything they need… and it’s generally pretty hot, and malls are cooler.”

With large numbers of frequent visitors, malls in the Philippines expend a lot of effort on presentation, installing grand VM schemes and ensuring there is always something new to see.

“In a lot of ways we feel that the mall is nothing without its tenants, so there is constant change. As much as possible we create new zones, specialised zones,” says So. “For example, we might have a Cyber Zone, a Wellness Zone, a Services Zone, aside from fashion and the like.

“Everything you need to do, it’s present in the mall… there are even government services. You can renew your drivers licence at the mall, you can do everything about social security in the mall… we even have malls with churches or chapels in. You can attend mass in the mall.”