MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III, who previously worked as a retail sales supervisor for a well-known athletic brand in the country, said Thursday, October 29, that in hindsight, “this was part of my training for a more daunting challenge – when, in 2010, I was elected salesman-in-chief of the Republic of the Philippines.”
In his speech at the 17th Asia Pacific Retail Convention and Exhibition, Aquino said, “all of you here know how much easier it is to sell when you have an excellent product. The Philippines has always been that.”
He added that the country is blessed with an abundance of resources: strong human capital, an excellent location, and vast potential for industry growth, among many others, which would seem to ensure that the job of salesman-in-chief would be very easy.
“However, these qualities had been obscured by the rampant corruption and impunity that plagued the past administration – to the point where we became the laggard among our neighbors, in so many different aspects,” he said. (READ: Aquino: ‘Corruption really is not tolerated’)
Aquino added that per his stint in the retail industry, establishing a new brand is already a challenge, ” [but] a different one altogether is reworking an ‘old brand’ – rejuvenating and reviving the image of something that may already have negative associations with its name.”
Determined to succeed
“In spite of the challenges my administration faced, we were determined to succeed. Our job was to effect true transformation, and convince all stakeholders – from the common citizens to investors abroad – to partner with us to rebuild the country.”
And he again said his administration had to undertake drastic reform, utilizing many of the strategies retailers employ.
“There was a need to strengthen our system and reinvent our entire image. We plugged leaks and closed loopholes in processes, instituted transparency and accountability, went after the corrupt, and leveled the playing field. We invested, and continue to invest, massive resources into our greatest competitive advantage: the Filipino people,” he said.
He added that the governnment has also been conducting an aggressive marketing campaign, “to tell everyone that the Philippines was once again open for business under new management,” and he hailed this as “extremely successful.”
“We did not only revamp our image, we also effected true change. The Philippines is now called ‘Asia’s New Darling,'” he noted.
Optimistic for PH retail industry
Thus, the country’s hosting of the retail convention and exhibition is very timely. “I am told that the Asia-Pacific continues to be the top destination for retail brands, with a market of billions. You will likewise be happy to know that recent reports give us so much reason to be optimistic for the Philippine retail industry.”
Aquino citied that in the Nielsen 2015 Second Quarter Global Consumer Confidence Report, the Philippines showed the biggest quarterly improvement in consumer confidence, rising 7 points. “This makes us second only to India in terms of consumer confidence, in a survey of 60 markets,” he said.
Proof if this is the arrival and expansion of foreign brands such as UNIQLO, H&M, Herschel, Forever 21, Longchamp, Miss Selfridge, Basic House, and Cotton On, among many others.
Several international food brands are now available here, including Applebee’s, IHOP, Tim Ho Wan, and Ippudo. “There are many more I failed to mention, but suffice it to say that the Cabinet secretaries are very happy with their current dining options,” the President quipped.
He added that the Department of Trade and Industry has been working very closely with the Philippine Retail Association to ensure the growth of your industry. “I am certain that our efforts to capacitate Filipinos, and to spur the growth of the IT-BPM (Information Technology-Busines Process Management) and manufacturing industries, among others, have likewise resulted in creating empowered consumers, who can patronize your products and services,” he said.
But he added that the retail industry is not limited to shops in the malls or highly developed complexes. “A large part of retail involves micro, small, and medium enterprises operating all over the country. In the Philippines, we have very small, neighborhood stores called sari-sari stores. You can imagine the sheer volume of goods that passes through these small shops, as well as the number of people who derive their livelihoods from them.”
Aquino said that more professionalism on the retailers’ part, their willingness to share best practices and knowledge open up so many opportunities for everyone involved. “We have to fast forward. This is not only apt for your drive to realize the potential of the Asia-Pacific market; it is also apt for us Filipinos.”
He said that whether for the retail sector, or his fellow countrymen, it is clear: “Now that we have so many successes under our belt, now that we are realizing our aspirations, we cannot allow ourselves to backslide. This is the time to work even harder, and even more closely with one another, to build on what we have achieved.”
As he steps down next year, Aquino asked, “do we allow our country to return to the dismal past?”
“I am confident that our people have a clear answer in mind. They know that the depth of skill and talent in our country has yet to be fully realized, and that we need to not just continue, but double down on reform to give rise to a Philippines that is a shining example of sustainable and inclusive growth.” – Rappler.com
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