PLAYERS in the gifts, decor and houseware (GDH) sector are encouraged to look for opportunities to expand their market share and win new clients in Southeast Asia.

Pete Delantar, CEO of Nature’s Legacy Eximport Inc. and former president of the Cebu-GDH sector, said that while Cebuano exporters have remained resilient since the 2008 global economic downturn, for many exporters in their sector the recovery has proceeded at a snail’s pace.

“There’s movement but it’s far different from what it used to be,” said Delantar, who won a Gold Prize during the 43rd International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva, Switzerland last April.

Rather than focus all their market efforts on their usual markets like the US and Europe, Delantar urged his fellow GDH exporters to consider the 600 million individual consumers in Southeast Asia as new markets, on top of industry markets like tourism and real estate.

“There is a huge potential for GDH exporters to grow big in Asean (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), considering the ingenuity and quality of workmanship of Filipinos,” Delantar said. The country’s continued economic growth is getting global attention and interest among foreign investors, he added.

Delantar said he expected two kinds of investors who will take a look at the Philippines: market seekers and efficiency seekers.

Market seekers are those who will access new markets or opportunities for expansion, while efficiency seekers are those who will look at the country for possible relocation, among others.

“As local players, we need to position ourselves well because both types offer tremendous opportunities in terms of market reach as well as revenue and employment generation,” he said.

In a separate interview, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 7 Director Asteria Caberte said that although the export sector has not fully recovered from the 2008 economic crisis, players in the fashion accessories, GDH and furniture sectors are slowly gaining traction in the local market.

Aside from individual buyers like the local and foreign tourists, export players are now turning to resort and hotel establishments as newfound markets. Caberte noted these sectors now participate in local trade fairs to showcase their products for local consumption.

“Exporters in the past put all their eggs in one basket with export products that are difficult to find, but now they have recognized the opportunities in the local market and are now making their products available for the tourism market,” said Caberte.

DTI and the University of the Philippines Institute for Small-Scale Industries have signed a memorandum of agreement to formulate the Strategy Road Map for Gifts, Decors and Houseware Industry for 2013-2030. This is set for completion on Aug. 15 this year.