Islands opens pasalubong centers

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013


THE Islands Group launched over the Sinulog weekend three Islands Pasalubong branches on Archbishop Reyes in front of Ayala Center Cebu, Raintree Mall on Gen. Maxilom Ave. and at their flagship store on Magallanes St. in front of the Sto. Niño Church and Magellan’s Cross.

The Islands Group president and chief executive officer Jonathan Jay Aldeguer said that for more than five years, they had a pasalubong section in some of their Islands Souvenirs stores. He said the section has always done well but customers told them they wanted a one-stop-shop that would carry all Cebu delicacies for pasalubong.

“Most travelers don’t have the luxury of time and they get frustrated having to go to at least three to four places to fulfill their pasalubong checklist. That’s the main reason why we decided to put up Islands Pasalubong,” Aldeguer said in an email interview.

Since the stores’ soft opening last Saturday, Aldeguer said customer feedback has been “extremely encouraging,” which prompted them to extend store hours.

Completeness

He said sales over the Sinulog weekend was at its highest. They had to overstock their initial inventory just for the celebration, he said.

“There are two main compliments that we’ve been getting. First is that, they like the ‘completeness’ of the store. We have several hard-to-find products that customers don’t see around anymore. The second is our prices. They noticed that our prices are ‘standard’ and cheaper than most pasalubong centers,” he said.

Aldeguer emphasized that they had to implement a “strong and standard” pricing policy in all of their establishments, including their hotels, because customers nowadays are very price conscious and value-driven.

The Islands Pasalubong sells Cebuano delicacies like dried mangoes, otap, rosquillos, among others. At least 40 percent of their merchandise mix carry other items from the smaller delicacy makers and placed them under the “home-made” section of the store.

“We go as far as Argao, Danao and even Camotes to try to track down some of these famous delicacies but have not gone mainstream yet. You will see us introduce these products little by little,” he said.

The company is also studying a program that will help small delicacy makers have access to financing, packaging and other services. “We will soon embark on a program to help them grow their business.”

While still on the early stages of the operation, Aldeguer said they have to observe the sales performance of their pasalubong stores before they decide to expand the retail outlet. “We would like to see how the stores perform first before we open more.”

Expansion

For the meantime, the company will focus on the expansion of their other tourism-related businesses.

The year 2013, according to Aldeguer is going to be “exciting and pivotal” for The Islands Group.

From the retail front, the firm will be rolling out more Islands Souvenirs Stores nationwide.

“Tourism in the country is fast growing, so we will add more stores in the top destinations as well in the new and ‘emerging’ places,” Aldeguer said, adding that they will also be opening several Islands & More stores, the firm’s lobby shop concept that has been doing very well.

For Islands Stay Hotels, Aldeguer said they are opening two Palawan branches, the first one will be in Puerto Princessa near the airport that will be operational next month. They are also opening two hotels in Manila by the middle of this year and another branch in Cebu.

The company is also currently looking at several properties in Tagaytay, Boracay and even places like Tuguegarao and Butuan for Islands Stay Hotel franchises.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 23, 2013.

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