Reinventing retail

So much has changed in the last three months.

While a couple of industries have been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, I would like to pay attention to what is happening in the retail space, and how our buying and spending behaviors have changed in the process. Case in point: the number of food community groups I belong to are now greater than the number of work-related groups I am a part of. This is not to say the business group chats decreased. Rather, this shows how quickly the shift to digital has happened, as far as retail buying is concerned.

The lockdown stripped all of us of the liberty to go out at will, save for some of the really essential and unavoidable activities that we need to do (example: accompanying my mother to the hospital for severe back pain). As if by design, we have managed to deal with day-to-day household operational requirements to what we can scour and find online, and what a transformation it has been in the process.

I wrote previously on the emergence of community commerce and how bartering has become a sustainable way of trading during this time. Alongside that, we are now seeing the reinvention of the retail space and how digital platforms are playing a pivotal role in this ongoing change. Come to think of it, I have not gone to the grocery for a while now.

This reinvention has shifted from your traditional retail experience (i.e., going to the mall or to the retail outlet to physically buy the product) to shopping online. I am not referring to the e-commerce platforms that have been there for a while, but to the emergence of micro entrepreneurs who have now turned to online selling, and even reselling, on various social media platforms.

You and I are too familiar with it: the minute you open your Facebook account, you immediately see on your feed the various food community groups you belong to that have been selling anything from wet market items (fresh tiger prawns, boneless bangus) to Father’s Day specials. It is growing at an exponential rate: home cooks improving on their recipes and product development until they are ready to sell and entrepreneurial people who resell food items from different parts of the country to allow consumers to still enjoy them without the need to travel (an example would be chorizos from Cebu) are just a few examples happening in the digital retail space. It cannot be helped: without a coronavirus vaccine, people would still think twice about going and dining out. These retail transactions are done online and still continues to drive the logistics business, making it one of the more thriving industries now.

This is where it gets creative. We have seen how Lalamove is now using jeepneys as part of their roster of vehicles to deliver goods. What a brilliant idea, considering that this would absolutely help jeepney drivers who would otherwise be still out of a job, since they still aren’t allowed to ply the roads. We also know how FoodPanda is using one tricycle association as its “last mile” to deliver food to a particular area. Even private car owners are also creatively providing a new service, in which they charge a flat rate of P100 for every address in a posh village where the delivery would take place, making it a more efficient way to compile orders from the same geographic location to save on delivery fees.

A hundred pesos is, of course, cheaper than booking your own Grab or MrSpeedy service for a distance of 5 kilometers and more.

This retail reinvention is now driving new revenue streams for Filipinos, and our innate creativity and resilience allow us to sustain these new income-generating avenues. We must draw inspiration from this current situation, especially for those whose businesses have been massively affected by the pandemic. From what I am seeing, the traditional retail may have taken a hit, but that in itself also paved the way for the shift of retail to happen digitally, which now opens doors to more people, not just business organizations.

Consumers are now provided with more options to choose from, all available in one click.


Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include nation-building, sustainability education and financial literacy. The author may be reached at