Young org advocates quality PH-made fashion and lifestyle brands
FILIPINO shoppers—particularly the fashionable and trendy—have expressed delight over the wave of international brands opening shop in malls around the metro over the last few years.
While the phenomenon may be viewed as a sign of progress for the Philippine economy, its downside is the loss of interest among Filipinos for purchasing locally made products, which are equally competitive in artistry and quality.
Concerned over this prevailing pattern of consumerism in the country, an idealistic group of young Filipinos who value homegrown talent and resources formed the non-governmental organization Yabang Pinoy (YP) in 2005, and have since advocated pride and nationalism through active promotion of locally-made products and services on a nationwide scale.
“Yabang Pinoy has grown significantly over the years. We now have over 50 volunteers helping out in different campaigns and projects, not including advocates of the organization who continuously share news and updates about YP in any way they can,” one of the group’s project manager JM Jose told The Sunday Times Magazine in a one-on-one interview.
Besides organizing various community-based projects to promote local tourism, literature, language, and filmmaking among many others, YP is also behind the successful eight-year-old Global Pinoy Bazaar (GBP). Considered as one of the biggest bazaars in the country today, Global Pinoy featured 200 all-Filipino brands in this year’s outing alone, spanning the diverse industries of travel, home, food, design, music, and fashion.
Recognizing the abundance of Filipino fashion and lifestyle brands, GPB devoted a huge part of its August 2014 edition to this industry to encourage consumers to patronize 100-percent locally made products for use in their day to day lives.
“In the retail industry, particularly in lifestyle, we don’t try to fight off or compete with international brands in the market because they are already present and existent in the community. What we try to do is change the mindset of every Filipino to put their money in local purchases,” Jose explained.
“There are new international brands that constantly come to the Philippines, but the challenge is for the consumers to become more aware of the local products that available and more importantly are of equal or higher quality. For every purchase of an internationally-made brand, you can be sure there is an equal or even greater Filipino product in the market,” he guaranteed.
Another recent YP project, which caters to both local merchants and consumers, is the “PH Made Movement.” This is a social media campaign that puts together as many Filipino brands as possible in the market today. YP categorizes these from footwear, apparel, technology, home, etc., and posts the brands online via the official yabangpinoy.com website for easy access and navigation by the public.
Jose explained, “Through the PH-Made Movement, we introduce, or re-introduce local brands to the market so the next time people go to the department store, grocery, or mall, they know what Filipino brands are available there, and hopefully have a conscious effort to choose local.”
He added, “We have more than 500 brands under specific categories and we keep updating them. We have our own research team that does that.”
Happily, YP observes that despite the challenges continually faced by Filipino entrepreneurs and nationalism advocates, there has been an increasing number of local merchants steadily marketing and selling their goods. However, the organization’s loftier goal of convincing Filipino consumers to favor Filipino brands and use locally made products on a daily basis is still a long way away.
Trends in local brands
With the success of GPB at the World Trade Center in August, YP’s research team has noted factors that influence Filipino consumer behavior.
“Primarily, shoppers look for ‘branding.’ If they see the brand is perfect and has a personal and deep impact on them, they will buy the product. Secondly, they look for ‘quality,’ and by this we mean that consumers purchase products because they know that the materials used are tried and tested and have gone under extensive quality control,” Jose related to The Sunday Times Magazine.
“After the last GBP, we have received a growing demand to stage another bazaar. Now this is a positive indicator that the businesses we featured are growing, and that local brands have succeeded in showcasing their wide variety of products over the last decade,” he continued. “In other words, the Filipino market is vibrant, although of course we want to see these brands progress into established brands in shopping malls, and later on compete in the international market.”
One such brand that YP hopes to see beyond Philippine shores is Team Manila, which has established some 10 stand-alone shops in different malls. Starting out as a “bazaarista” with GPB, Jose has followed the significant progress of the clothing brand over the years.
“To cross over to the mainstream is the long term goal of all businesses. Like Team Manila, many entrepreneurs introduce their products and brands in a bazaar, and eventually if they think that their brand is already ripe for the market outside the bazaar, that’s when they establish shops,” Jose said.
As for competitive pricing and quality customer service, Jose acknowledged that some local products are sold at the same or even higher price points in comparison to foreign-made brands. But as businesses base their price on cost, sales will still depend on the consumer’s choice.
“Everything depends on the mindset of Filipino consumers. We hope that if there is a choice to be made between foreign and local products with same price and quality, the buyer will choose to go homegrown.”
Long-term economic growth
To further promote their buy Filipino advocacy, YP actively supports the “Made in the Philippines Products Week Bill,” spearheaded by the National Economic Protectionism Association (NEPA).
This bill pushes for Filipino products to be celebrated for an entire week in the month of August to coincide with the Buwan ng Wika or Filipino Language Month.
This idea emerged during the presidency of the late Manuel Quezon through Proclamation 76, or the commemoration of the “Made in the Philippines Products Week” that came even before the celebration of Linggo ng Wika. After his time, this proclamation had been forgotten and failed to progress into law unlike the Buwan ng Wika.
According to Jose, Filipinos need this kind of celebration in order to support the local economy. He identified that while the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and business process outsourcing (BPO) are heavily contributing to economic growth, these are “band aid solutions” to the sustainable progress of the local market. These are temporary in the sense that BPO companies can pull out at any given time, and that OFWs may decide to bring their entire family with them to live abroad.
“It is much more beneficial for the country to develop local businesses. We believe if there’s one thing that will support and sustain the economy of the country, its supporting local businesses,” Jose declared.
Challenges and triumphs
With the success of the GPB, the organization is staging another bazaar on November 15 and 16 at the Rockwell Tent in Makati City. Presently, they have 150 Filipino brands signed up for the event, among them are Anma Lifestyle which sells stylish pouches and functional cases; The Lunch Break Project stationery designs; C-Beauty that carries organic aromatherapy oils with local scents like Ilang Ilang and Citronella; Fledge Clothing for men, and many more.
Popular brands such as Messy Bessy with its all-natural cleaning products, as well as Theo and Philo artisan chocolates will also participate in the two-day bazaar.
“For as long as there are merchants out there who are willing to invest their money in putting up their own businesses and give jobs to other Filipinos, and at the same time—if there continue to be Filipinos who have a clear and defined mindset to consciously purchase local products—then local businesses will continue to thrive,” Jose stated.
Nevertheless, the YP project manager cited the biggest challenge of Filipino entrepreneurs, which is the procurement and high cost of tax permits. While it is relatively easy to establish a business with creative concepts and branding, the paperwork and cost of business permits, registration process, and tax remittances are very challenging to endure.
“Since we engage with entrepreneurs in the GPB, they tell us that apart from what they pay for the BIR permit—which is already huge granting they are micro businesses and startups—they also have to remit a certain amount of sales to the BIR. So aside from the registration, every sale is taxed. Personally, I think the government needs to help businesses, especially startups, and be more lenient with the rules. They need to be ‘tax friendly’ especially to micro, small and medium enterprises,” Jose suggested.
With the natural gift of creativity and diversity found in Filipino culture, YP reiterates their plea to Filipino consumers to rethink their concept of locally made products. As some regard Filipino products as baduy (not trendy) or bakya (low quality), a closer assessment of local brands today will show competitiveness in quality and artistry in the commercial and international markets.
More importantly, having a Filipino pride and nationalism as consumers does eventually and effectively translate to economic growth and prosperity.