Singing salesmen make it Fiesta time in the Philippines

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Twenty-one years after post-Arrivals shopping was introduced in the Philippines at Fiesta Mall in Manila, the concept shows no sign of losing its allure among Filipino travellers and especially returning workers from overseas. Today, even amid intensifying competition from the domestic market and an erosion of the duty free price advantage in some categories, Fiesta Mall remains one of the world’s most diverse and unusual travel retail locations.

Alongside many great brands from liquor & tobacco to beauty and fashion – and a confectionery zone that is among the very best and biggest anywhere – sits a vast array of other commodity items from washing machines to karaoke players (more on that below) to a fully stocked supermarket.

The Moodie Report is on location in the country this week, and we’ll bring you a full report on the market in our May Print Edition, as well as further on-the-spot reports as we meet Duty Free Philippines management and key concessionaires in coming days.

Today, we walked the facility from start to finish – and at every turn there was a reminder of just how different this duty free market is to most others. Entire families (where often just one member is eligible to purchase, having just arrived home from a trip) pull up outside the mall and pour into the registration area. The jeep pictured above disgorged eight men, women and children who were set to spend their afternoon inside – with many groups taking four hours to complete their visit. Now that’s dwell time most airport retailers would kill for.

Once inside, there’s an astonishing array of promotions across categories as you enter the main store – led by the retailer’s largest category, confectionery. Here, the value bundles that drove the business in its infancy still dominate purchases among returning workers, who fill trolleys full of the Hershey multi-pack ‘Pasalubong’ bags, which come with a huge variety of gwps as added attractions.

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Currently anyone who buys at least three of these bags is eligible to enter a prize draw for a range of motor cars (pictured) – and interest was intense earlier today during our visit.

What’s striking too, in a store that relies so heavily on the discount message and promotional gwps, is the huge level of personalisation and support from brand owners across all categories. The fragrances & cosmetics area is on a par with most airports for its upscale look, while key fashion brands such as Salvatore Ferragamo (the category’s number one brand by value) and Celine (a DFP exclusive in the country) boast strong statements in their own shop-in-shops.

For anyone who regularly visits duty free stores, however, many of the eye-openers come one floor down from the core products, where toys, sports goods, home appliances and the supermarket are located. The toys section stretches for what seems like miles, and carries an array of brands that any major department store in the western hemisphere would be proud to boast.

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A personal favourite was the (ever-popular among Filipinos I was told) karaoke machine, and not only because of its unusual status as a leading seller in a duty free shop. Here, two young men (Marcy, pictured above, and his colleague Ian) are employed to sing renditions of popular Filipino and international tunes all day long to ‘showcase the karaoke opportunity’ in the store. They even serenaded your correspondent along with the charming Debbie Ongsip from concessionaire Landmark Management, who led me on the tour.

As with much else at Fiesta Mall, the singing salesmen provided something different and unusual for shoppers, and show how DFP is changing with its audience. In the year Fiesta Mall celebrates turning 21, it’s a good time to salute one of the industry’s most enduring and unique duty free operations.

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