Business As Usual

SME expansion to drive retail sector growth in Asean

Jennylei Caberte - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Southeast Asia's retail sector can look forward to exciting times once the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is formally integrated later this year into one Asean Economic Community (AEC) or common market.  The region is home to more than 600 million consumers who have diverse tastes and needs. 

Samie Lim, chairman emeritus of the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) and the Philippine Franchise Association (PFA) – who headed the Philippine delegation to the RetailEX  FranchisEX Asean Thailand 2015, believes Asean is well-positioned to become the “shopping mecca” of the world. 

To optimize the potential benefits of the integrated Asean Economic Community, however, Lim said Asean governments must invest time and energy to help their small businesses grow. Asean groups Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Enjoying observer status and awaiting eventual integration into the group is East Timor.

"Among Southeast Asian countries, I realized that Thailand is far better prepared for AEC,"   Lim observed.  

Lim said the Thai government has performed impressively in assisting its small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

"The Thai government approved a total of 200 billion baht for lending to SMEs.  I must say I was very impressed as this is the biggest amount given to small businesses," Lim stressed.

He lamented that while SMEs want to spread their wings and expand, small business owners are constrained by the lack of capital.  Bangkok's move, he pointed out, would surely help Thai firms expand to other parts of Southeast Asia. 

Lim, chairman of BLIMS Lifestyle Group and Canadian Tourism and Hospitality Institute, said other Asean countries can follow Thailand's lead to attract more customers to its shores. Extending similar support to SMEs in other Southeast Asian countries, he added, would provide a big boost to the retail and franchising sectors in the region.

Issues and challenges confronting retailers in Asean and the Asia-Pacific would take center stage at the forthcoming 17th Asia Pacific Retailers Convention and Exhibition (APRCE) on Oct. 28-30 at the SMX Convention Center in Manila.  The three-day program aims to discover new approaches to issues facing the region’s retailers and highlight innovative solutions that can help them differentiate themselves from competitors, and to deliver greater value to consumers.

Lim said PRA, which hosts this year's APRCE, has invited retail experts and luminaries from various parts of the world. He expressed hope SMEs from Asean would attend the event to learn latest trends, innovations and technology in the retail sector.

At the RetailEX FranchisEX Asean Thailand 2015, the Philippine team aggressively promoted the forthcoming APRCE Manila 2015, reputedly the biggest and most important retail industry event in the Asia Pacific region.  

Lim said Philippine retailers have already expanded to Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore and even Myanmar, with SM now firmly established in China, while the manufacturing group of Robinsons has operations in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia, among others. 

"Twenty years ago just like when Singapore hosted APRCE, shops were very traditional. Stores were downstairs while the living quarters were at the second floor," Lim recalled.

“After we introduced this conference in world capitals, people started looking at shopping centers.  They started looking at chain stores. And that is the start of modern retailing," he added.

The Philippine delegation to Bangkok, Thailand also included PRA vice president for external affairs Paul Santos, secretary general Evelyn Balmeo-Salire, project manager Joanne Rachel Balangat; PFA and Media Blitz Group.

The 17th APRCE Manila – organized by the Federation of Asia Pacific Retailers Association (FAPRA), the regional organization of 17 recognized national retail associations in Asia Pacific – is co-presented by the Tourism Promotions Board, The SM Store and Wyeth Nutrition. With Bench, Flight 001 and Penshoppe as platinum sponsors; Robinsons Malls and Ayala Malls, PLDT Alpha, Megaworld, Unilab, Mercury Drug as gold sponsors; Duty Free Philippines, HP, Wilcon Depot, Kojie-san, Celine, MET Tathione  as silver sponsors; Araneta Center as bronze sponsor.

For inquiries about the forthcoming 17th APRCE Manila 2015, please contact the PRA secretariat at (+632) 6874180, 6874181, 6874985, 0999-363-3720.                                                 












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