S&R, Decathlon — made in the Philippines
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - April 24, 2019 - 12:00am

As I walked into the latest “go to places for shopping,” namely S&R Lipa City and the Decathlon outdoor and athletics store in Tiendesitas -Ortigas, I was honestly apprehensive and conflicted given the fact that I have always considered myself as pro-Filipino who regularly promotes buying “Made in the Philippines” products. Since I first shopped at an S&R store in Metro Manila, it was always on the basis of buying products that were not locally made and sold, or simply to accompany my wife and daughter. I was not quite ready to cross the boundary of buying products such as agricultural goods that we could buy locally. When my family told me about the huge store called Decathlon, I expressed no interest, dismissing it as just another shopping trap whose main attraction was their highly competitive pricing. Besides which, my days of athleticism is confined to one hour walks in worn out shorts, grease stained t-shirts and sneakers.

But then again, one must never pass judgment on something you have not fully tried or experienced, as well as studied why it is beneficial or should be dismissed as irrelevant. In the last month I have visited the Decathlon store thrice and I actually made a complete sweep of the S&R store in Lipa City, aisle by aisle, carefully studying products and prices. At face value, S&R and Decathlon look and feel like imported outlets transplanted in the Philippines. They both look “Pang mayaman lang” or “Only for the rich” but they’re not. My wife who loves to compare prices swears that S&R prices are lower by P2 or more depending on products.

But shopping is not just about prices. There is the big issue of choice and quality. Whether you’re shopping for steak or inner tubes for bicycles, these outlets offer customers such a wide array of products, a lot of which can’t be bought or found in the biggest malls all over Metro Manila. I also discovered that a lot of the food or agricultural products such as meats are locally sourced and are “choice” material. Some have “imported” sounding name brands but are locally produced. So I no longer feel guilty regarding my “Buy Filipino” commitment. On top of that I tried several steaks during the Holy Week and they were not freezer dried or tough! The best part is that they are neatly organized, with prices and description strategically placed so you don’t get confused or misled. All the information is right next to their products or on the products so much so that you hardly need the assistance of a sales person. That makes for hassle free shopping because you don’t have someone hovering or getting in your face like merchandisers do in hardware stores or malls.

When I saw the wide array of bicycle parts and accessories that were available and affordably priced at Decathlon, I blew my credit card buying up all the tires, inner tubes and pumps for my various bicycles at home. For many years, I’ve had to drive an hour or more from Pasig to Cartimar in Pasay just to buy bicycle parts and always they were either pricey or hard to find especially for my bikes bought from Japanese surplus stores. The only other option for such was to buy them abroad, mostly Japan or the Netherlands, the world’s bicycle capital!

I’ve come to realize that these stores raise the level of customer service, functionality, product choices, pricing and management. In Lipa City, S&R will surely raise the level of comparison and hopefully educate consumers about service and excellence while creating employment and developing local talents. As for Decathlon, their bold entry into the market sets the standard for customer convenience by placing active wear and gear under one huge roof, presenting products at an international standard, while challenging all previous players to expand, raise their product quality and choices as well as offering competitive prices. They also prove the wisdom of setting up business beyond the malls. I hope that outlets such as these prosper and raise the bar for the consumer’s benefit.

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While doing my early morning walks during the Holy Week I was confronted by the unending series of tarpaulins nailed to walls, tied to trees or any possible surface that would support and display campaign tarpaulins. The sheer amount of such illegal campaign materials is evidence that the Comelec is all talk but does not have the ability to stop or remove such illegal materials except for a few choice spots in Metro Manila and only with the help of the MMDA. But outside of city limits, it becomes no man’s land where candidates and their supporters have “No Fear” of Comelec reprisal. Truth be told, I suspect that Comelec officials are merely putting up a brave front and expecting competing candidates to tell on each other or file a complaint. Then and only then can the Comelec act on illegal campaign materials such as tarpaulins.

Beyond the rules of the Comelec, one big concern will be the amount of tarpaulins and non-biodegradable materials that will be strewn all over the country after elections. As a cost cutting measure many local candidates are now using disposable size tarpaulins that are thin and small making them non-reusable or can’t be recycled. I’ve seen a number of them falling off the walls and nobody bothering to pick and save them. While the President himself along with thousands of Filipinos are now talking about stopping plastic pollution, what are authorities doing about disposable, non-reusable tarpaulins that will be the next big volume of pollutants in the next 6 to 12 months? This is something that the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Comelec can prevent but with such a weak attitude toward environmental protection, the two agencies will probably ignore the problem until some NGO brings the matter to the media.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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