MANILA -- Despite being an essential business, convenience store chain 7-Eleven Philippines is also greatly affected by the novel coronavirus crisis, its president and chief executive officer said Wednesday.
During a webinar organized by the Philippine Franchise Association, Jose Victor Paterno cited low sales and trouble getting staff to work because of the suspension of public transport as among their problems -- and that both caused some of their stores to close.
"For the convenience sector, 25% of our sales is food. We saw that get really, really hammered," he said. "We're essential business but we still have trouble getting people to man the stores because of the public transport problem, for one. So right now, 22% of stores are closed, although now it's mostly because of low sales."
He added: "We had a particular complication pa because we're not used to closing, right? Many of them didn't have locks so what are we gonna do? So we had to install locks and things like that."
Paterno admitted that he has "a very pessimistic view" for offline retail during the COVID-19 pandemic, except for supermarkets.
Nevertheless, he said they are taking steps to respond to the impact of the crisis on their industry, such as focusing on what people need the most.
For one, they plan to remove the seating areas of 7-Eleven and replace them with more shelves to house more essential goods.
They have also been focusing on selling frozen food, including those from popular restaurants.
"People don't need food service so we're doing frozen food and we're selling the frozen food of some restaurants so that may be another side business for us," he said.
Paterno said they are also looking into the idea of being a pickup point for groceries and vegetables as part of their efforts to adapt to the changing business environment.
"My working assumption is it will be bad until we get a vaccine which they say is 12 to 24 months... We've got to raise enough cash to last us until then," he said, adding that they are holding off on expansion and renovations.