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By Joseph L. Garcia, Reporter
SOME of the world’s most expensive brands can be found at the Greenbelt complex in Makati’s Ayala Center. Judging from plans laid out by the Ayala Malls’ top executives on May 26, the complex is about to get more fashionable.
Stores are expanding, getting refurbished, moving to new spots, while new ones are also opening their doors.
Interior architect J. Antonio Mendoza was tasked to redesign Greenbelt 3’s façade and interior to seamlessly fit the global prestige of the brands it would carry, as well as meet the needs, desires, and expectations of Greenbelt 3’s discerning shoppers.
Christopher Maglanoc, President of Ayala Land Malls, Inc., points out as well the facelift that Greenbelt 4 is receiving. “More global brands now will call that home.”
NEW BRANDS AND OLDThe Louis Vuitton store has expanded, adding ready-to-wear collections to its repertoire. Other stores that have been retouched or have been added to the mix include global brands Dior, Kenzo, Fendi, Univers, Off-White, Thom Browne, L’Officine Universelle Buly, Max Mara, Rimowa, Patek Philippe, and Bvlgari. This month and next, Celine, Loewe, Jimmy Choo, and Ermenegildo Zegna will open their stores. A revamped Tiffany & Co. is slated to open as well as a Cartier.
As these three brands — Ermenegildo Zegna, Tiffany & Co., and Cartier — move from Greenbelt 4 to their new locations, they will remain operational until the final move.
Up to next year, Greenbelt 4 is getting retouched faces for favorites Burberry, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tod’s, Bottega Veneta, Givenchy, Gucci, and Prada. Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, and Saint Laurent are opening their presence in Greenbelt 4.
Meanwhile, brands completely new to the Philippines — Roger Vivier (once the shoe designer of choice for Queen Elizabeth II; while Jackie O wore their pilgrim pumps) and Faure Le Page (an arms manufacturer for both the royal House of Bourbon and the imperial House of Bonaparte in France; it has since transitioned into creating handbags and other leather goods) will open their doors in the same complex.
“We were able to put together some of the world’s most prestigious global brands,” said Mr. Maglanoc. “This would not be possible without the brands that we’ve worked with through the years.”
Eunice Velasco, Marketing Director for Ayala Malls said, “Greenbelt is indeed the country’s fashion and lifestyle capital.”
“We confidently say this as we take pride in being the only one capable of putting together the most impressive lineup of international brands in one place,” she said.
“It was a huge undertaking,” Mr. Maglanoc said in an interview with BusinessWorld. “We first had to convince the global brands. The LVMH brands (the parent company of Louis Vuitton, among others), if you see them; they’re more or less in full force here.” According to him, negotiations with the brand principals from these luxury brands had been going on since 2018. “We had to sell the vision first.”
He gave the reasons for the brands expanding their operations here, and attracting new brands. “They really see the Southeast Asian market as a growth market. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be here. They’ve been around, but they were working with local partners.”
AHEAD OF THE STANDARDThe pandemic has taught the world about the usage of space. Offices have given way to work-from-home or hybrid arrangements; while restaurants and malls constantly have to be creative in using space, mindful of health risks and pandemic-related restrictions. “Greenbelt has always been about open spaces,” said Mr. Maglanoc. “There was very minimal adjustment.” Asked about other improvements they’ve made, such as more efficient air filters, he said, “We’re ahead of that standard. Even before the pandemic, we met it.”
Since pandemic-related restrictions for occupancy and mobility were imposed early in the pandemic, have the mall operations for the group stabilized? Mr. Maglanoc said, “Not stabilize, but we’re seeing a steady progression. Week on week, month on month.” He said that compared to their pre-pandemic levels of occupancy since 2019 they have since seen 80-85% of those levels return. “That varies per mall location,” he pointed out.
“The luxury category was hardly affected by the pandemic,” he noted. “Despite the lockdowns, people were still spending money on luxury goods.”
Still, present mall operations bear scars from nationwide closures and such incurred during the pandemic. Mindful that the Ayala Center is located in the country’s financial district, he noted that “Greenbelt as well as Glorietta are very dependent on the office market.” He cited data that as of now, only 40% of the country’s office workers are back, with others still serving on remote or hybrid arrangements. “We’re not yet seeing a large part of the office market driving the visits. But we see also — at least from the local community that they serve, they’re back.”
On the question of building anything new, he said, “The main thing is really to get our bearings again. Help our merchants again recover, and basically help our malls get back on track. That’s the main priority now. The expansion will be there when the opportunity presents itself.”