Christina ‘Tina’ Tan: A ‘shopping’ list for aspiring grocers

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo - The Philippine Star
Christina �Tina� Tan: A �shopping� list for aspiring grocers
Tina with daughter Maxine and husband Joel Santos.

After graduating from the Ateneo de Manila University in 1982, Christina Tan, or Tina to friends, was faced with three choices: To pursue her dream of becoming an entrepreneur, find a job, or help out in the family business of a relative, who owns Suy Sing Commercial Corp.

Suy Sing Commercial Corp. is a one-stop grocery distribution business. Since opportunities for the first two options during those years were bleak, she decided to be part of Suy Sing.   When asked why she decided to join the family company, Tina explained that she felt the company was growing and was in the process of professionalizing, which she wanted to be a part of.

Tina ascended the ranks, from a sales associate to heading the purchasing department, becoming general manager, and eventually, president and CEO.

Fast forward to today: Tina just celebrated her 40th work anniversary, a feat in today’s world. Asked why she stayed, she replied, “Working in a dynamic, growing and tech-enabled company like Suy Sing has allowed me so many opportunities to learn in the different functions, I never felt the need to go anywhere else to fulfill my professional growth. At the same time, the company’s mission of bringing success to grocers resonates with my own personal mission of making an impact in people’s lives.”

With the firm belief that that small and medium entrepreneurs are vital to the country’s economic development, Tina made possible the company’s vision to develop a wide range of programs to help the grocers run their stores more efficiently. One of these programs is the Retail Academy that trains and upskills grocers on store operations, inventory and people management, customer service and the like.

“The stories of our customers never cease to inspire me,” Tina says. “Many of them had humble beginnings — they were the original ‘start-ups’ who had to use their savings or borrow money to fund their venture.  From a small market stall or a sari-sari store, they were able to grow into a big minimart, expand into several locations, branch out to other businesses and, most importantly, provide well for their family and employees. One customer whom we awarded 65 years of loyalty a few years back has children who are lawyers, doctors, accountants and businessmen, all from the fruits of her grocery store.”

According to Tina, opening a grocery store is not rocket science but still needs careful study and planning. “Running a grocery store may not be as glamorous as an e-commerce or food business, but it is a business that provides stable returns.”

Suy Sing Commercial Corp. president/CEO Tina Tan.

When asked why she decided to join Suy Sing, Tina explained that she felt the company was growing and was in the process of professionalizing, which she wanted to be a part of.

Tina shares the success lessons from Suy Sing’s grocers’ experiences:

1. Start with your choice of location. Understand the market and tailor the store accordingly.

2. Develop a business plan. Assess capital, create budgets, sales forecasts, capital expenditures and operating expenses.

3. Attend a grocery start-up course. Acquire knowledge in assortment, pricing, category management, store layout, and inventory management, among others. We run this on a scheduled basis.

4. Build strong community relationships. Establish connections and engage with the local community.

5. Develop a clear vision/mission. Align with your team. Invest in training and treating your team well.

6. Craft an effective marketing plan. Recognize that pricing is not the sole strategy.

7. Prioritize customer service. Ensure that every encounter with your team and store visit is pleasant.

8. Maintain financial discipline. Manage your cash flow wisely and understand that sales does not equate with immediate profit. Avoid lavish spending on lifestyle items.

9. Embrace continuous learning. Stay updated on technology and tools that simplify store processes and enhance the customer experience.

10. Seek reliable long-term supplier relationships. Look beyond short-term deals and prioritize suppliers that offer value-added services to sustain growth and facilitate scale. *



(We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.)

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