Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Manila, dumping ground for overruns?

When I was a student in Florence, my absolute main concern was to learn the language enough to get a good stint at a fashion company. My professors had reiterated many times how important the language facility was during the screening process. But as luck would have it, the work sought me out, and not the other way around. There happened to be one company that was specifically looking for Philippine students. I remember vividly taking the train to Veneto up north for that interview. I was with a couple of classmates who were also scheduled for the interview. From Florence to Ponte di Piave, Treviso, where the company HQ was, we had to take the train for four hours, with one transit, then look for the bus that would take us to Ponte di Piave. It was quite an adventure and I was just lucky that I had my sister with me and my friends to make it more fun. My sister and I actually got off at the wrong train station and only realized this when we saw that we were at Stazione Venezia Santa Lucia instead of Venezia Mestre where we had to take the train to Treviso Centrale. This mistake resulted in a flurry of phonce calls to the school to ask them to phone the company and say that I was gonna be very late.

Luckily again, the person I was closest to in the group got accepted in the company, and so did I. I went on a total of 3 job interviews before snagging the one in Treviso. The brand that we were to work for was Stefanel. I was very excited and unlike some companies, they actually wanted us to start after the holiday season. One of my classmates who got accepted at Ferragamo had to start right away, which was in late November. When I started working at Stefanel I did not quite know what to expect. I knew about the brand because I had seen outlets in Manila before it closed down, and I also saw some items from the local Italian chain store. But the work culture in Italy was a mystery to me. The sales and export department was where I was supposed to be working, along with my Korean friend. We were tasked to put together a business plan (me) and an improvement plan for her, since Stefanel is already present in Korea. It was a little daunting because I would be getting most of my information from the internet, and thousands of miles away from home. It turns out that my boss was quite familiar with Manila since he had lived here for a few years. He was even friends with the owner of a well-known Italian chain store here, whom he said he had left his big bike with before returning to Italy. He gave me a little background information on Stefanel's presence in Manila. They used to have a partnership with a well-known distributor but that didn't really work out for them. After that they just shipped overruns or overstock items to his friend's chain store. He really wanted to grow the brand in the Philippines but everyone in the company had no idea about the potential in the Philippine market. In contrast to the results of my research, Korea is a really good market although very saturated. Many improvements have to be made in order to significantly increase market share. My results were more conservative. There were some moments where I thought, gosh, are we doomed to be the place to dump overruns for years to come. Not a pretty thought. Actually I'm just glad that we are making little steps to improving the retail situation in Manila. Rustans of course is a big contributor to that. We can see that they try to bring in fresh brands that not only appeal to market taste but also inspire people to think beyond their comfort zone.


Anonymous Ruby Gan said...

Really a sad state we have here. But we have still have fight and not give up! Sigh!

7:37 PM  
Blogger stylePOD said...

Hi Ruby!

I can see that you are doing your part too =)

If it's any consolation, the influx of Chinese made products is as big a problem in Europe as it is everywhere.

10:21 PM  

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