Freeman Cebu Business

Retailers project a more festive 2016

Ehda Dagooc - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - A more festive year awaits the retail sector in Cebu in 2016, as people are expected to have a lot of extra cash to spend for shopping, while election spending fattens the money circulation within the system.

"There is always a push due to election money. Plus, people now have higher purchasing power, they are not afraid to spend," said Philippine Retailers Association (PRA-Cebu) president Robert Go.

The confidence however, will not only last until the election money dries up, but retailers--big and small are positioning in Cebu banking on the long term rosy prospects of the province's overall economy.

More job offerings, led by the outsourcing sector, tourism related businesses, and re-entry of manufacturing firms to Cebu, are just few of the solid indications of Cebu's strong growth backbones, said Go.

Retail veterans, like the Sy's of SM, the Gokongwei's of Robinsons, are leading the pack of strong believers to Cebu's capacity to provide profit margins to retail players.

With the new airport opening in the couple of years, Cebu will be the star of tourism and investments in the Philippines. Retailers global and local are positioning already this early, said PRA-Cebu past president Melanie Ng.

These local retail leaders are joining the giant players' faith in Cebu's retail business, although some of the local retailers are still a bit intimidated by the entry of international brands.

According to Go, serious businessmen could sense the desperate positioning of retail icons in Cebu, while others are wondering if Cebu will be able to sustain this retail influx.

Cebu's consistent track record of growth, gives promise for a sustainable and even more profitable retail trade, if players will be able to hit the right pitch of Cebuanos' buying habits, as well as meet the unpredictable buying patterns of young consumers.

The year 2016 though brings good news for the retail sector, it will only be taken advantage by the pro-active and innovative-driven retailers, warned market intelligence specialist Benedicto Villanueva.

‘Brick  and  mortar’ and  online  presence

In this new age of retailing, old-school strategies are no longer applicable. Retailers should make sure to "cross-over" or blend-in to the online shopping highway, instead of being threatened by the popularity of digital shopping.

Experts have found out that maintaining an online presence at the same time operating the traditional "brick and mortar" are both important to stay in the business, said Villanueva, who is the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of GFK Retail and Technology Philippines.

Villanueva said while online shopping has not really taken off well in the Philippines yet, it is clear that even in developed countries, "brick and mortar" stores are much more alive, which erases the impression that online shopping could mean death to physical store presence.

'Brick And Mortar' is a traditional "street-side" business that deals with its customers face to face in an office or store that the business owns or rents. The local grocery store and the corner bank are examples of brick and mortar companies.

After the much hyped digital and online shopping in recent years, the market has returned to brick and mortar because buyers want to touch and feel the product, see it before they will decide to purchase.

Villanueva said that instead of being threatened by the inevitable online stores/ shopping, retailers should "cross-over" and make parallel presence in the online world,

"What is happening now is people make virtual [window] shopping, to search for savings, discounts, available styles, and choices, but they eventually visit the [physical] store to feel, touch and buy the item," said Villanueva.

Establishing presence online is equally important as having a physical presence in an area, he said.

Being online is important to sustain market hold, and "to encourage them to keep on going back."

Online presence also, can be used as effective consumer "bait", showing off what's available in the store, although offering online shopping payment system is also needed.

"Blend rather than compete" is the name of the game, in today's changing shopping dynamics, Villanueva said.

Villanueva underscored  the importance of being present in all online platforms, especially social media, aside from setting up a good online or virtual store.

In the year 2016, retailers are expected to make their own presence in the digital highway, making virtual shopping easily available to the internet-hook generation.

Go said local retailers have a lot of catching up to do, but what is certain is--Cebu will make retail trade much more alive starting 2016 and beyond.  (FREEMAN)

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