Traders aim to improve customer service
While the retail industry is among the industries that is seen to grow this year, traders and businessmen feel they should focus more on selling based on “relationship and experience” in order to remain competitive.
The recent calamities – the earthquake and supertyphoon Yolanda – both fueled a demand for basic commodities in the last quarter of 2013, said Philippine Retailers Association Cebu Chapter president Jun Yap.
With relief operations over, Yap said he expects a shift in demand from food to other products used in the rebuilding stage to grow more this year.
“The first half of last year was very promising. In fact, I was ready to declare 2013 a ‘banner’ year for the retail industry until the calamities including the collision of the ships happened. We are affected somehow because some of the sectors in the retail industry shrank,” Yap said.
Yap pegged the growth last year at ten percent fueled mostly by the continued growth in the telecommunications sector.
“Retail sectors like apparel suffered a temporary setback but we expect this to recover right away,” said Melanie Ng, former PRA Cebu Chapter chairman.
More malls opened last year such as homegrown chains of Metro Gaisano of the Viscal Group which opened nine stores and plans to open eight to ten more this year.
Colon Heritage Realty Corp. which is the company behind the cluster of retail chains in downtown area including Colonnade Mall and Oriente Cinemas, also re-launched their shops to better serve an evolving market.
A concept shop at Pueblo Verde in Mactan, Cebu called The Outlets opened in December. It will soon house 22 outlets shops of different global brands.
“The landscape has become more competitive. Ayala Center Cebu recently opened its new expansion that will house more global brands. Local manufacturers will definitely be affected but retailers here have also adapted by becoming franchisees or distributors of these brands here,” Yap said.
With more competition, Ng and Yap said that the defining strategy then is “experience.”
“Now more than ever, the need for quality customer service and a seamless experience is needed. While we put emphasis on quality products, the service part also needs to be defined more because the market has grown and has learned to demand quality service,” said Yap.
Yap said most retailers are doing this and have invested in training their people to give the best customer service they can.
“For gadgets, we have to have the experience. That is why most shops selling gadgets have a unit ready for customers to experience the product before they buy it,” he said.
Technology will have a big impact on retail trends this year with people having more access to information according to Yap and Ng.
“We still see a continued hunger for smart phones and other smart gadgets this year but more powerful. We expect telecommunication companies to pour in more investments for LTE networks which will then fuel more demand for gadgets with these capacities.”
Another sector that looks bright this year is the construction industry.
Demand is expected to grow due to rebuilding efforts of many organizations helping areas hit by the supertyphoon and the earthquake on top of the many construction projects from real estate developers that will be launching more residential, commercial and office projects this year.
MSY Holdings Corp., a local company, is investing at least P7 billion and has lined up four projects this year.
MSY Holdings Corp. president Martin Yeung said they believe in the Cebu economy and see huge potential for their projects which includes a 15-hectare six-star resort property in Daanbantayan town, a condominium project in Lahug, a second Bayswater project in Talisay city and an office tower called MSY Tower 1 in Cebu Business Park.
Other sectors like apparel and fashion will still see demand from the market with the Cebuano’s general spending capacity increasing, Ng said.
The ASEAN Economic Community taking shape next year will be a big challenge for retailers.
“There is a need for more information drives about the impact of ASEAN integration on retailers and how they can maximize the opportunities and mitigate risks,” Yap said.
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