MSMEs seize the (holi)day | Inquirer Business

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Desiree and Marck Yabut get recognized for excellence in business

For the population at large, the two or three months leading up to Christmas day are a flurry of holiday-related activities—decorating and sprucing up, shopping and gift-giving, and cooking and feasting—without which Christmas is not Christmas.

At no other time of year do Filipinos, armed with extra purchasing power (thanks to 13th month checks, bonuses, and other holiday perks), spend so readily, give so generously, and shop so feverishly. Altogether, these activities may well be an adrenaline shot that can energize even a sluggish economy. No wonder the Christmas season, year after year, is credited for bringing the country’s economic life into high gear.

All these, in turn, translate into opportunity for retailers, manufacturers, and other entrepreneurs, says Dr. Paterno Viloria, president of the Small Enterprises Research and Development Foundation (Serdef).

Dr. Viloria urges small entrepreneurs, in particular to “seize the moment,” that is, take advantage of the opportunity to attract more customers, generate more sales, and earn more income. This implies implementing promotional strategies to drive some of the increased economic activities and purchasing power into their business.

The Serdef conducted an informal mini survey of micro, small and medium enterprises on what Christmas means to their business and the strategies they use to mine the opportunities the season brings.

Months before radio and TV stations and commercial establishments start playing Christmas songs in September, most businesses have begun to implement their holiday marketing plans.

Tomas Ranada, owner of Uptrend Marketing, a local supplier of nutritional supplements from the United States, says: “Since our items are imported from a distant country, I make sure that holiday products are available before October. “Holiday products” to Uptrend means health supplements that promote relaxation, weight control, digestion and healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as well as those that counter the bad effects of overindulgence in food and alcohol.

Every year, he requests his suppliers to follow a strict delivery timeline. Uptrend’s company’s holiday order should already be in transit by August, with the last shipment expected by the end of September, Ranada explains.

Busy season

Lakapati Basa who, with husband Jose Alvin Basa, runs The Real Happy Cow, which caters to the dietary needs of the growing group of vegans and vegetarians in Metro Manila, confirms the holiday season is truly the busiest for them.

Holiday marketing for this food company is about joining events, such as selected fairs and bazaars where they are likely to meet their target healthy-eating market, people who are likely to appreciate their products.

For two years now, they have been joining the annual VegFest Pilipinas, the biggest gathering of individuals committed to healthy eating. This year’s VegFest was a series of events held in three venues in Metro Manila: Mandala in Mandaluyong, Eastwood in Quezon City, and Chinatown in Manila.

Held in October and November, The festival has been, to the couple, a perfect venue for marketing their products at the perfect time. According to them, the events have been very successful in attracting thousands of vegans, vegetarians and people transitioning to a meatless diet. It was quite fulfilling not only in terms of sales and revenue generation but also in the promotion of their “spare the animals” advocacy.

During the events, they made available limited-edition products and holiday packages for buyers with gift-giving in mind. A holiday package might consist, for example, of sage sausage cheese sauce and smoked truffle and nacho-flavored vegan (nondairy) cheeses bundled together in an attractive holiday gift bag.

Linda Aldea of Gateau de Manile bakeshop shares her holiday marketing experience: “The Christmas season always keeps us on our toes. Customers start phoning in their orders as early as November. From then on, there is never a slack moment in the bakeshop’s work area with its walls practically all covered with order slips.”

She thinks her products are in great demand because, at Christmastime, more and more customers want to take a holiday from cooking too.

Gateau de Manile has years ago closed its walk-in outlets on Katipunan Avenue and in White Plains. Nowadays, customers mostly place their order by phone and pick it up at Linda’s home-cum-workplace at Blueriddge B, Quezon City. It also has a “baby shop” called Pink Chiffon in Marikina City, managed by Linda’s son Carlo and his wife Chel. Gateau’s holiday product line includes fiesta dishes, relishes and dips, aside from the cakes and pastries they have been famous for in the last three decades.

Linda Aldea of Gateau de Manile

Time for sharing

To many of the entrepreneurs surveyed, the season is a time for sharing, for spreading the holiday spirit to people around them, especially customers, dealers, and workers.

For Uptrend, “it is a good time to show appreciation to loyal clients by sending them health and beauty products and other freebies.

Gateau de Manile also takes advantage of the holidays to thank customers who followed the business through the years and its changes in location.

Michael Marck and Maritez Desiree Yabut, who manage Laoag City-based Little Sweets Pastries use similar holiday promotional strategies. For customers, the shop offers price-down and buy-one-take-one deals. For wholesalers, Christmas gifts and tokens are sent. Their top priority, however, is their employees. At the annual company party, cash is distributed on top of the mandated 13th month pay, outstanding employees are recognized and rewarded, and raffle and door prizes like cell phones and other electronic gadgets are made ready for lucky winners.

There are products that need not be promoted at all— products that automatically sell themselves come Christmas time. Among these are the Eureka-brand educational toys manufactured by Komico Enterprises.

According to owners Chito and Aida Madrono: “Our chess sets and other board games are naturally sought after as holiday gifts. Our sales double, as a matter of course.”

“We don’t have promos, but we certainly benefit from the holiday spending frenzy,” says Rory Rebustes of Citrus Snap Photography. Most companies have photo requirements for their marketing collaterals, holiday campaigns and year-end events and they allot a substantial budget for this. Corporate buyers, especially those whom they have served before, also seek out Citrus for their executive photo requirements. “I guess once customers like the experience of working with you, they don’t forget you,” Rebustes adds.

Online promotion

In lieu of mass media advertisements they cannot afford, many micro, small and medium enterprises turn to social media to reach out to customers.

For example, Charlene Cruz, the 23-year-old proprietress of Sweet O’Clock, extensively makes use of both her official and personal Facebook accounts to boost sales. She also makes it a point to introduce new products every year. Through the five years the business has existed, her product list has grown manifold. Once limited to leche flan, Sweet O’clock now also offers many variants of cookies, brownies and cheesecakes. Her latest creation is matcha leche flan with which she targets the millennial market. Next year, Charlene is all set to go into dessert catering.

Charlene would take pictures of her new products with a good camera, meticulous lighting, and attractive plating for FB posting. But by far the most effective online activity for her is to e-mail old customers, friends and acquaintances one by one to nudge them for their holiday orders.

Adonaistar Travel Agency, located in Pasig City, also relies heavily on its internet site and direct e-mailing to communicate with its market. It has compiled a mailing list of old, recent and prospective customers to whom it sends information on upcoming trips, tour packages, and special deals. The site has enabled the company to build long-term relationships with clients, says co-owner Czarina Arquero, who also maintains the website. The site is continually improved and updated in order to keep engaging its audience.

These entrepreneurs show that the Christmas holidays are truly a time of great cheer and of great profit possibilities, too.—CONTRIBUTED

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