Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

As of June 30, 2009, Henry Sy’s SM has 102 stores composed of 34 department stores, 41 supermarkets (16 SaveMore branches), 13 hypermarkets, and 14 Makro wholesale outlets. For the rest of the year, SM plans to open one new SM Supermarket, 7 SaveMore outlets, 6 SM Hypermarkets, and 2 SM Department Stores.

SM is the undisputed leader in the local retail industry. But it seems SM has a more ambitious and nefarious plan: it wants to be the only retail store in the country. It kills competition by buying out local stores; it establishes branches beside public markets; it uses its political clout to benefit from mega public projects – Northrail will have an SM Clark station, a central MRT station will be built in front of SM City North Edsa. (It is incredible that railways along EDSA, the site of two People Power uprisings, have station links to supermalls but none to historical sites or public parks).

Save More stores are sprouting everywhere. They are established in our favorite local neighborhoods; in places where we didn’t expect would be invaded by SM’s corporate tentacles. But SM is now going hyperlocal. SM is targeting the savings of kuripot residents who are not fond of malling. SM wants you buy your lunch and dinner needs at the clean, affordable, and accessible Save More branches and not in your dingy, crowded, and smelly public markets. Through Save More, SM is offering you an opportunity to experience the allure of modern shopping without the inconvenience of hobnobbing with the sosyaleras in the malls.

But Save More stores do not empower customers. They are anti-poor (and anti-labor) business establishments. After SM is finished devouring local stores like Glo-ri (Champion stores) and Masagana, it could soon dictate the retail prices in the market. It is only a matter of time before the ubiquitous Save More stores can force the shut down of small supermarkets like Hi-Top, Parco, Anson’s, Liana’s, SSG, Kemp, GL, etc. The establishment of a modern chain of supermarkets has permanently affected the profitability of maintaining public markets. SM stores are killing the businesses of small vendors in public markets. SM stores forces and seduces you to ignore and forget the ever reliable public markets.

Without competition from village stores, SM can decide what things we need to buy for our daily lives. SM can modify our shopping habits by hypnotizing us to buy goods we don’t need. Through marketing magic, SM can make us feel satisfied if we consume their products. Through its dominance of the local retail trade industry, SM can alter our senses by presenting its products as constituting the national standard for what is true, the good, and the beautiful. Soon the SM standard will be used to measure if a product is reasonable priced and of high quality. This is homogenization of taste. We will appreciate only the things and products sold by SM.

SM’s supremacy weakens the power of local farmers, growers, suppliers, and manufacturers. SM can bargain for the lowest prices from its suppliers. SM can demand unfair product requirements from producers. It can sign deals and agreements with suppliers that do not reflect an equal business partnership. SM can afford to be arrogant because it no longer has competition. Suppliers which want better deals can no longer threaten SM that they will sell their products to other village stores because the latter have already closed shop.

As the number of village stores and public markets continue to decline, the livelihood of local farmers and manufacturers is affected. They will be forced to sell their products to SM at a lower price. Consumers are at a losing end too because they will be denied of the right to choose and buy products from diverse local sources.

SM stores are changing the relationship of customer and trader. At public markets, customers can be suki in the morning; they can make tawad-tawad; they can demand dagdag (“suki, dagdagan mo naman. Suki, paubos na yung benta mo, ibigay mo na lang sa akin”); they can complain and force a change in the store policy (“Masungit yang katulong mo. Masyadong mahal ang benta mo.”); they can make pisil-pisil the products to test the freshness; they can demand new products (“Suki, gusto ko bukas ng ganitong prutas at gulay.”).

At SM stores, customers are given (dis)advantage cards but they cannot make tawad-tawad; customers are greeted by smiling employees but their complaints will most likely not affect the store policy; customers can suggest new products but the management will not act on a single request.

Through Save More, SM wants to grab more. In the end, you will pay more. Today, going to the public market is a threatened cultural and economic activity. Soon, buying a product from a public market will be an act of protest against corporate predators like SM. We need Farmers’ Markets. Once in a while, go to the nearest tiangge.

Related articles:

Malling republic
Migration and Malling

5 Responses to “Save More”

  1. At the Save More outlets here in Cabanatuan City (one near the public market, and one at a local mall), the prices of some goods (baby milk and diapers, for example) are actually more expensive than in other retail stores.

    They are convenient, sure, but in the end, consumers will want to actually save, not spend, more.


  2. I live 3 minutes away from a public market. I usually go there for fish and vegetables (and sometimes puto in the morning) where they are always fresh. As for the rest (milk, canned goods, etc.), there is a local Save More supermarket 10 minutes away from the house. They also sell fish and local produce but the local market still providers a better deal with those food products. The only problem though is that the local market is too filthy for the rest of the products hence Save More has the upper hand.


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  4. It’s called “dumping”. Selling cheap, even at a loss, is a long-term business strategy. Even if SM loses money, once it bankrupts all competition, nothing can limit its price hikes. God save us all if we all wake up one morning to find nothing but SMs all over.


  5. we now also have the new SM SAVEMORE here in tuguegarao city and i may be proud of it because it is a part pf economic development and city prestige but considering the economic status of the people here, savemore tuguegarao will actually abandoned the living of the small enterprises.. but indeed,, to have savemore is nice but it is better to be to have a real SM mall not only a supermarket

    gerald ramos

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