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For this luxury retailer, Christmas 2020 is about empathy, home

By Tanya Lara Published Oct 17, 2020 5:28 pm Updated Oct 17, 2020 11:11 pm

Luxury retailer Rustan’s celebrates a different kind of Christmas in a year that saw the economy shrink and millions of jobs lost. But, like the season itself, it is filled with hope and family.

COVID-19 has changed everything in retail, including the global luxury market. In August, McKinsey consuting firm reported that the luxury goods market will contract from 25% to 39% in 2020, year-over-year.

A study by Forrester Research says that this year, global retail losses will amount to $2.1 trillion (P102 trillion), and that it will take four years for retailers to see pre-pandemic consumer spending.

It will be interesting to see how people’s spending habits might change at a time when they traditionally overspend, and how retailers will treat their Christmas campaigns in a year of losses.

In the Philippines, the government’s lockdown orders saw stores across all segments shuttered in March until restrictions eased in June, but many stores to this day remain closed in malls and others will never open again.

Much of consumer expenditure relies on people going to work and going out, and since they’re working from home and hesitant to go out shopping, consumer spending has been slow to return to the industry.

This year’s Christmas season will be very interesting to watch from the points of view of both consumers and retailers. 

Home for the holidays at Rustan’s

First is how people’s habits might change at a time when they traditionally overspend. Second is how retailers are going to balance their holiday campaigns between wanting to make a profit and being sensitive to the times—even to and including their high-end clientele who, no doubt, have had to let go of some of their employees in their own businesses.

Bienvenido “Donnie” Tantoco III, president of Rustan’s Commercial Corporation, struck the right balance between the season’s cheer and the reality of the times when he talked to online journalists on Thursday, Oct. 15.

“Christmas 2020 is all about empathy,” he said. “This year is unlike any other year we have ever experienced. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, no one knew that it would last this long or how big an impact it would have on Filipinos.”

He said that as retailers, they were very much aware that people have suffered losses during the pandemic and, now, more than ever, family and home are what’s keeping people together.

“In previous years, many families would travel abroad during the Christmas break. This year, I think people will be staying home together and that’s important.”

Gift-wrapped items are sanitized before they are handed back to shoppers. 

Donnie also reminisced about his grandmother, Glecy Tantoco, who founded Rustan’s with her husband, Ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco, in 1952.

His grandmother taught him many lessons, he said, and one of them was to make sure that one takes care of the family despite the long hours at work.

“Family and home are very important to us,” he said.

There is also hope—that things will get better for everyone and the holidays remind us of that.

Rustan’s Christmas windows—whose themes have ranged from polar express to bespoke dancing snowmen—have always been a sight for sore eyes for commuters stuck in Christmas traffic on Ayala Avenue.

This year’s display, which will be up later this month, will have nostalgia and home as themes.

Kitchen appliances for home bakers

In anticipation of the holidays, Rustan’s ramped up two existing services that are useful for shoppers in this pandemic. The first is the Personal Shopper on Call for people who don’t want to leave the house. Its hotline—09171111952—goes live on Oct. 24.

The second is its eCommerce platform, Rustans.com. The online store hosts a Home for Christmas microsite that carries all holiday content, including videos of performances, decorating tips, gift suggestions, and schedules of all upcoming in-store and online activities.

The store’s traditional gift-wrapping service includes sanitizing the gifts and putting them inside another (sanitized) box. Santa will not miss his photo opportunity with children either—but it will be virtual this year.