Monday, 3 May 2010

Overseas push for Pinoy firms


HOMEGROWN food and retail firms plan to increase their presence abroad this year with the Filipino diaspora and post-recession property prices working to their advantage.

The number of Pinoy brands making it abroad could soon double while those that have already reached foreign shores are eyeing more outlet openings, industry players said at the sidelines of a Philippine Franchise Association (PFA) press briefing on Friday.
"We’re all expanding aggressively because of the demand of overseas Filipino workers and expatriates. We’re gaining ground," PFA Chairman Emeritus Samie Lim said.

The 17 Philippine firms with franchises overseas should double in the next year or so, Mr. Lim claimed.

This is on top of PFA’s projected 20%-30% growth in the franchising industry’s revenues from the domestic market alone.

The optimism for overseas markets, said Mr. Lim, comes as Filipinos abroad have remained as the long-standing entry market of franchises.

The recession has not affected this loyal consumer and investor base as many overseas Filipinos are employed in the more resilient health sector and in other high-paying professional jobs, said Froilan M. Manotok, head of South Luzon operations of Red Ribbon Bakeshop, Inc.

Cheaper leases abroad, an effect of the downturn, are also helping.

"[Landlords] are giving us the chance. They might not have considered us in the past but with other stores closing, it is an opportunity," Mr. Lim said.

Companies behind the Jollibee fastfood chain, Red Ribbon bakeshops and Max’s Restaurant, for instance, expanded amid the crisis last year and plan to soldier on this year.

Low prices abroad have indeed helped, Jollibee Food Corp. franchising and internal events manager Malu C. Santos said.

Jollibee’s overseas stores are concentrated in the United States which plays host to 28 of its 62 outlets and "we are targeting more abroad," Ms. Santos said, declining to elaborate.

The same is true for subsidiary Red Ribbon.

"Last year was our strongest expansion yet. We opened more than 10 in the United States," Mr. Manotok said.

The bakeshop now has 38 company-owned stores in the US, its sole foreign market for the meantime.

Even more outlet openings are likely this year as Red Ribbon is eyeing the Latino market, Mr. Manotok said.

Max’s, Inc., the company behind another chicken chain, is likewise looking to expand. Five overseas branches are slated to open this year from three in 2009, said Robert F. Trota, its president.

"Frankly, franchisees are considering us because we’re less expensive," Mr. Lim said.
"And the acceptability of Philippine brands is growing. They’re seeing our brands as equal to or even better as the others," he added.

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