BUSINESSES have reported strong sales during the Sinulog festival. Sales are higher than in the Christmas season and other holidays.

Jay Aldeguer, chief executive officer of the Cebuano apparel brand Islands Souvenirs, said Sinulog generates better sales yearly for retailers.

Islands Souvenirs is known in the business of selling souvenir items since 1992. It was one of the very first retail companies that adopted a “destination-specific” merchandise.

“Everybody benefits from the Sinulog festival,” he said, citing that the festivity has always created more opportunities for retailers due to a big number of both local and foreign tourists coming to Cebu.

Aldeguer said that despite this year’s weather conditions and the calamities that struck Cebu late last year, the Sinulog is exhibiting “more gains” than in the past years.

Shirt design

From Jan. 10 to Jan. 17, Islands Souvenirs offered a Cut and Style Your Sinulog Shirt at the Northwing Atrium of SM City Cebu, where buyers could pick out various embellishments for their shirt and design these with the help of the Islands Souvenirs staff.

The boost is widespread.

Dr. Joey Rivamonte, school administrator of Salon de Rose-affiliated Rose Institute, meanwhile, said the Sinulog generates an increase in customers by 40 percent or more yearly.

He attributed the increase in the number of customers to tourists coming to Cebu to celebrate the festival.

Local manufacturers of Cebu’s delicacies and other products also took advantage of the Sinulog festival and participated in the Department of Trade and Industry-Cebu’s Sinulog Fair at SM City Cebu.

Sinulog fair

DTI-Cebu business development division chief Elias Tecson said there are 45 exhibitors and 52 booths in the Sinulog Fair, which started on Jan. 10 and will end on Jan. 22.

“Yes, Sinulog definitely generates more sales than Christmas because people from different locations come here in the city. This is also the best time to buy Cebu’s best like chicharon, tablea, and torta,” he said.

The Sinulog fair is organized by DTI-Cebu, Sinulog Foundation and the Cebu City Government.

Sinulog fiesta fair participants, especially those who are not from Cebu, said they joined the event not just to sell their goods but to also make their products known.

“(We want) to make our products known to other potential customers,” said Bilma Fuertes of the Miracle Juice from Davao City.

Yvette’s Bags and Beads Collection by George Gasto from Davao, meanwhile, sells hand-made crocheted straw bags. The company was able to join international trade fairs twice by being the country’s representative.

DTI-Cebu senior trade and industry development specialist Lurli Abaño said the participants were the ones who approached them for the registration of the Sinulog fiesta fair.

“They observed that the fair has been going on for more than 10 years already, so they volunteered to participate even though they are not from Cebu,” said Abaño.

Another company, meanwhile, launched its business last Saturday afternoon, in time with the Sinulog procession where an estimated three million people joined.

Cafe Wahu, an event-based coffee shop, put up a stall on Fuente Osmeña.

Eugene Luzon, Cafe Wahu board director, said they opened at 1 p.m on Satuday but was forced to close at 7 p.m. on the same day because they ran out of ingredients for their coffee drinks. He said the launching of Cafe Wahu was beyond what they had expected.

Other locations

Aldeguer, meanwhile, said Islands Souvenirs’ twist on shirts, particularly the Cut and Style, has attracted many buyers.

The retailer said this is the shop’s second year of offering personalized Sinulog shirts. Last year, Islands Souvenirs offered it as an add-on service to those who would buy a shirt from the shop. A Cut and Style Your Shirt was also offered last summer by Islands Souvenirs in Boracay.

Although there were no exact figures yet on how many shirts were customized, Aldeguer said he is seeing a “very warm” market response this year. Because of this, the Cut and Style Your Shirt will be made available to some popular tourist destinations like Boracay, Palawan, and Bohol this summer.

Aldeguer said the company has added roughly 40 employees to embellish Sinulog shirts this year.

“Just like any other products today, you need to innovate and we’re a company that does things differently,” he said.

The apparel shop started shirt customization with the “I Heart” campaign in February 2010, originally as a Valentine’s Day campaign promotion that focused on a less typical love — love of place.

Aldeguer said the “I Heart” campaign was phenomenal, with Islands Souvenirs expanding the line to other key destinations such as Davao, Bohol, Manila, Boracay, Vigan, Camarines Sur, Baguio, and Palawan.

Islands Souvenirs’ retail operations have also expanded to over a hundred stores in various high-traffic tourist locations in the Philippines. (JOG with a report from Joyse Almojallas, Alexis Delos Angeles and Jave Matugas, USJR MassCom Interns)