admin December 8, 2020

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I Was A Human Guinea Pig For A Covid-19 Medical Trial
During a normal year, Camille Peredo, 31, would be spending her weekends hiking mountains or strolling on some of the Philippines’ best beaches. But 2020 is not like any other year. Instead, she has mostly stayed at home for the past eight months as the country grapples with one of the world’s longest lockdowns imposed to combat Covid-19.
“The farthest I’ve been is the office, which is just a few minutes away from my house,” Peredo said of her limited wanderings during the lockdowns, which have varied by city and province since the pandemic started. “I miss enjoying nature’s best.”
To recapture the ambience of the outdoors, Peredo, a human resources manager, did the next best thing to actually being outside – she brought it into her home in Antipolo City, just east of Manila.
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She turned her family’s garage, which was initially used for storage, into a lounge filled with plants and upcycled furniture. Another part of the home was turned into a makeshift office so she can comfortably take calls and attend meetings virtually.
By the end of her months-long home-improvement spree in October, she was still yearning for more renovations.
Peredo is one of the thousands of Filipinos who have found themselves itching to improve their homes as they wait out the pandemic indoors. Their projects range from simple repainting of rooms to more drastic projects such as remodelling. According to Google Trends data, web searches for “online furniture” in the Philippines have surged over the past eight months.
The trend has benefited the country’s home-improvement stores and smaller furniture shops.
Dekko, a custom furniture shop based in Manila, has been flat out filling orders since March, with the store’s staff all working overtime. It is an exceptional situation amid the country’s worst recession in almost three decades, during which most businesses have had to either cut staff or temporarily shorten work hours to reduce costs.
“If we didn’t limit our (order) capacity, this year would be the highest (in terms of sales)”, said Dekko’s owner, Nathaniel Geluz.
And the shopping boom isn’t exclusive to the Philippine capital.
Listed big-box hardware chain Wilcon Depot is expanding amid the pandemic, having most recently opened a new branch in Laguna province, a two-hour drive southeast of Manila. The company reported 10 per cent year-on-year revenue growth in the third quarter, with its chief executive, Lorraine Belo-Cincochan, saying in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange that “private construction is picking up”.
Los Muebles, a furniture shop based in Pandi, a small town in Bulacan province north of Manila, has already achieved its best sales year since it opened in 2017 – and the year is not even over.
CEO Jelsa Roldan said it helped that the company established its online presence early: “So even when the country was in quarantine, customers did not need to go to the shop to order or check our products.”
That Filipinos shop online is nothing new. But this year, the country recorded the second-highest number of new internet users in Southeast Asia, following Vietnam, according to data shown in the latest “e-Conomy SEA” report by Google and Temasek.
Despite the slowdown in online business for the travel and transport sectors, the gross merchandise value of e-commerce in the Philippines is still expected to reach US$7.5 billion by the end of the year, slightly higher than last year’s US$7.1 billion.
To say the home-improvement and furnishings sectors played a part is a given. According to data consulting firm Store Leads, “home and furniture” has risen to the third-highest category by number of stores on the e-commerce platform Shopify in the Philippines. More than 2,000 brands within the industry are using the platform to sell goods online.
I spent about US$1,870 to update my room, since I was very particular with the look I wanted to achieve
For example, Kristin Noche, 21, an undergraduate student from Batangas, a province to the south of Manila, exclusively ordered all the items she wanted for her home improvement project online. “I spent about 90,000 pesos (US$1,870) to update my room, since I was very particular with the look I wanted to achieve,” she said.
Customers like Noche are what prompted local furniture store chain Blims Furniture to hasten its digital adoption.
The company, established in the 1970s, made a name for itself by establishing showrooms in malls throughout the Philippines. It now has 40 stores nationwide. But as the past year has constantly proven, the pandemic is the ultimate disrupter of industries, forcing most established firms to change strategies to survive the times.
“At the height of the quarantine in the second quarter, we had zero revenue, as all of our stores were closed,” said Gregory Lim, the CEO of Blims Furniture. “But when we started to launch our e-commerce sites, our online sales immediately enjoyed three-digit growth, month on month.”
Still, Eduardo Zuluaga, chairman of the Chamber of Furniture Industries of the Philippines, cautions that the trend may not last.
“After 256 days of this pandemic, it’s very hard to plan on home improvements as a lasting trend,” he said. “The homeowner will spend to fix his home (only) if he has money. Planning for tomorrow is difficult when the problems of today are more than enough.”
This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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