Designed to dazzle
() - October 29, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The country’s top lifestyle exports can no longer get away with the high price tags that their foreign buyers used to ignore.

“Our niche in the high-end segment of the world market is eroding, and it’s eroding fast, especially with the absence of a sure-fire solution to the US financial crisis that has brought about today’s global economic contagion,” laments Rosvi C. Gaetos, executive director of the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM).

Gaetos is spearheading a CITEM campaign to help lifestyle exporters attain cost-efficiency and enable them to downscale their prices without sacrificing quality. “We simply cannot price our products out of competition or beyond the reach of the world market that is becoming more and more price-sensitive. The prevailing global economic condition is making creative products with low prices — like those of China and other countries with cheap labor — very irresistible. And, their exports are now improving in quality while remaining price-competitive,” Gaetos explains.

 China’s rise as a leading exporter of low-priced products over the past decade is even further augmented by the present world economy that is flirting with recession and favoring cheap exports on a massive scale.

 “Our design-intensive exports must be commercial enough but still tasteful in quality to post high-volume sales that can sustain profitability even at small margins,” Gaetos stresses.

This will drive you crazy: Rattan and coco twigs car from Classical Geometry of Cebu

This new strategic direction emerged from the market and industry assessment of two international experts tapped by CITEM to strengthen the collective brand of Philippine lifestyle exports and usher in new trends in product development based on global market demand.

These foreign experts are Australian marketing consultant Michael Cleghorn and US merchandise specialist and Imagination Network president Linda Simpson.

Cleghorn helped CITEM and the rest of the industry in formulating a marketing strategy that positions the Philippines as “Asia’s premier design destination,” while Simpson developed three thematic designs — Naturalist, Mood Indigo, and Graffiti — as models of high-quality but affordable and highly salable creative export products.

Simpson’s three design trends were seen in the export products that were showcased at the Manila Furnishings and Apparel Merchandise Exchange (FAME) International held recently at the SMX Convention Center. Simpson is also going around the country to guide export manufacturers in improving their operating efficiencies to “maintain profitability through marketability” and keep their businesses viable.

Have a ball: Ottoman, lamps, and pillows made of colorful wood balls from Catalina of Cebu

The country’s creative and lifestyle products accounted for a significant 12.7 percent or $6.5 billion of the country’s total merchandise exports of $51.5 billion in 2010.

CITEM, as the export marketing firm of the Department of Trade and Industry, promotes those products through the International Food Exhibition (IFEX) Philippines held annually in May, the biennial Manila FAME International scheduled in March and October, and significant participation in major international trade fairs abroad year-round, including the recently-concluded Tokyo International Gifts Show (TIGS).

CITEM’s participation in TIGS also enabled the agency to invite its buyers from various countries worldwide to check out the exhibits at the Manila FAME. Organized by CITEM, Manila FAME was supported by the Philippine Airlines and the business support organizations of various export industry sectors.

For more information about Fame, visit and

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