Malaysian mall owner woos Philippine retailers


(Source: BusinessWorld | 24 January 2017)

A malaysian mall owner is trying to attract Philippine retailers offering American-style fastfood and lifestyle clothing to set up shop in the Southeast Asian country.

Officials of the Kuching-based Plaza Merdeka visited Manila anew last week to meet executives from Suyen Corp. and Golden ABC, Inc., owners of Bench and Penshoppe, respectively, and fastfood giant Jollibee Foods Corp.

Plaza Merdeka General Manager Cheah Kheng Mun is making a new pitch to seal the deal for these Philippine retailers to expand in Sarawak by second or third quarter of this year.

“You sell a pair of jeans here for P1,500. In Malaysia, you can sell the same pair at RM150, or about P1,800-P1,900 when converted,” he told BusinessWorld. “You gain.”

Marketing these Philippine brands in Malaysia, a new market for these companies, shouldn’t be back-breaking, he added, largely because of their Asian roots.

Mr. Cheah believes Jollibee’s Yum Burger and Chickenjoy would not be too alien to Malaysian consumers. He noted Jollibee serving rice, considered a staple food for Filipinos and Malaysians, would make the fastfood chain more attractive to locals.

He also cited Penshoppe’s use of supermodels Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Cara Delevigne and Sean O’Pry — all “familiar faces” for the 20- to 26-year-old Malaysians, which comprise Plaza Merdeka’s highest spenders.

Mr. Cheah said Philippine brands also have an edge over Western retailers in Malaysia — its shared Asian background. Many Southeast Asian consumers are fans of Korean stars like Lee Min-ho, who models for Bench, and Sandara Park, who appears in Penshoppe ads.

Bench, he added, can also benefit from the popularity of Asian TV dramas, particularly Philippine teleseryes which air in Malaysia. For instance, ABS-CBN’s Pangako Sa’yo is a particular favorite among Malaysian audiences.

In the process, they will “create a lot of opportunity for other people,” Mr. Cheah said. “When you build a new store in an uncharted territory, for the logistics, fashion, marketing, advertising, sales, etc., you are creating jobs.”

At a time when US President Donald J. Trump’s protectionist policies are looming over Southeast Asian economies traditionally dependent on the US, Mr. Cheah said with these efforts in the region, “at least we could help the economy grow.”


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