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1,000 sq.m. for Watson’s 1,000th store

ON FRIDAY, Watsons, the health and beauty retailer, opened its biggest store, at almost 1,000 square meters (sq.m.) — which is also its 1,000th store — in SM North EDSA.

There are over 20,000 items in stock, and the store incorporates several new features, such as self-checkout, a screen that helps a customer preview makeup on their face, a health supplement finder, and a virtual clinic with The Medical City that gives checkups and diagnoses and prescriptions (which can be picked up in the store’s pharmacy).

“I think SM North is also one of our biggest malls, and it was due for renovation,” said Viki Encarnacion, Watsons Philippines PR and Sustainability Director. They took advantage of the mall’s renovation by taking more space for the 1,000th store.

Watsons, the flagship brand of the A.S Watson Group, arrived in the Philippines in 2002 in a joint venture with SM Malls. Its first branches were in SM Megamall and Podium, which opened on the same day. “I think we have the same outlook, beliefs, and values as SM,” said Ms. Encarnacion.

SM’s expansions across the cities also enabled its growth. “We started with all the SM properties,” she said, and moving onwards, they have since opened community pharmacies across the country. Ms. Encarnacion said that of the 1,000-store count, 350 of them are pharmacies located outside malls.

The new North EDSA store also has a hybrid shopping feature, where one can order online and pick up the item in-store.

With online shopping now a staple, how is it practical to build such a big store? “I think it’s important to have a store this size, to be able to express the brand. I think Filipinos still like to experience it physically,” said Ms. Encarnacion.

“We take our cue from our customers.”

REFILLSSpeaking of customers, Patrick Yu, Marketing Manager for Watsons Philippines, said that around 13% of their customers lead sustainable lifestyles — which was why they also opened a refilling station in the 1,000th store for its Naturals by Watsons line, which includes shampoos and body wash. This is their second refilling station, the first one is located in the SM Megamall branch.

By refilling their bottles, customers are slated to save up to 40%. “You hit two birds with one stone,” he said. “You get to save the environment and you also save money.”

Watsons offers refill packs of its Naturals by Watsons products as well as hundreds of refill packs from Safeguard, Dove, Johnson’s, Colgate, Gillette, Babyflo, Sunsilk, Luxe Organix, Head & Shoulders, and many others. Refill packs are 40% cheaper than regular packs and they also produce 75% less plastic waste as compared to regular bottles. These refill packs are available in all Watsons stores and online via the Watsons App.

To date, according to Mr. Yu, their sustainability programs account for 11% of their total sales.

“More than profit, what we wanted to focus on is to be the voice of change for everyone. We are not just doing this for profitability, but we’re also doing this to help the environment: to help our present and future generations.” — Joseph L. Garcia

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