Foreign buyers are coming back – CITEM

Foreign buyers, who practically left the country in 1997 in favor of China, are slowly coming back to the Philippines even as the government is also mounting a huge comeback promotion abroad particularly in the US market.

Rosvi Gaetos, executive director of CITEM (Center for International Trade, Expositions, Missions), told reporters at the opening of the Manila FAME featuring the country’s furniture industry, which is highlighted by handcrafted products, that this 59th Manila Fame edition is expected to generate at least $25 million on the spot sales from last year’s $15 million to $20 million. Overall (spot and negotiated) sales during the March 2013 show were estimated to reach $35 million. The Philippines though used to haul in bigger spot sales of $50 million when China was not yet discovered as a source.

According to Gaetos foreign buyers, who practically dumped other markets including the Philippines in 1997 in favor of China, are coming back as China has transformed from being a source into a huge buyers market instead.

From a high of 3,000 foreign buyers before where each major retailer would send in 15 buyers, the strategy has changed via the establishment of buying offices thus reducing the number of buyers in the show.

“But they are coming back and the furniture market is recovering from a slump,” she said noting there could be 1,000 foreign buyers in this furniture show.

She also said that Manila Fame, which is now on its 35th year, will continue at a sustained basis to provide as an export platform for local producers noting there are 200 to 300 producers that still cannot afford to participate in trade fairs abroad.

Aside from the big retailers, Filipino exporters are also taking advantage of the contract markets like Dubai, which have strong demand for furniture furnishings for hotels, resorts and other entertainment facilities.

To complement this effort, CITEM is also mounting huge promotions abroad.

For instance, CITEM will bring in 15 companies to the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in the US in May this year to promote Philippine designs.

Gaetos noted that the US has remained the country’s number one export market, but it has not promoted there for quite sometime, the last time being in 2001 yet.

To further promote the country’s exports, Gaetos said that CITEM has the “Red Box,” a group of young designers under the tutelage of the country’s famous designers – Kenneth Cobunpue and Budji Layug – who are making strong international presence for their craftsmanship.

Gaetos further noted that China is no longer a source of products as producers have realized that it is also a huge consumer market.

“Let’s look at China as a market,” Gaetos said noting that it has ceased to be the source of fake products.

“Producing fake products is just a strategy for them to learn, innovate and improve on. Now, China is the the biggest consumer of Louis Vuitton.