For thousands of sari-sari store owners, the last weeks of May are red letter days on the calendar.
That’s because around this time, they get to attend a national convention designed specifically for them, during which they get to purchase products at a steep discount, listen to entrepreneurship talks by known experts, and go home with freebies from the different manufacturers who take part in the unique gathering.
Behind the annual convention is listed Puregold Price Club Inc., an operator of wholesale and retail stores, including supermarkets and groceries, which is posing a serious challenge to veteran retail operators in the lucrative category.
Puregold is championing the cause of the sari-sari store owners through its Tindahan ni Aling Puring membership program. It is well aware that these small entrepreneurs who dot the country’s retail landscape comprise the bulk of its customer base.
Puregold knows which side its bread is buttered, and it feels that these sari-sari store owners have not been given the recognition and support they are entitled to.
Puregold’s attention to sari-sari store owners has paid off handsomely for the company, says Puregold merchandising director Ferdinand Vincent Co. It allowed the company to generate loyalty in the market and become top of mind when it comes to filling up the shelves of sari-sari stores.
Co tells SundayBiz that Puregold sources valuable insight from the Tindahan ni Aling Puring members. They point Puregold to new product categories and brands that are selling well on the ground, he says.
In return, Puregold has laid out a multipronged support program for the small entrepreneurs, including those running small eateries or catering enterprises.
Tindahan ni Aling Puring members, for example, may get access to negosyo sessions, during which they are taught to manage their finances, how to display their products for maximum customer impact, and advice on what products to purchase to make the most of their capital.
Also, they earn points from every purchase at any Puregold Price Club or Puregold Extra store. Members earn three points on their Aling Puring card for every P100 cash or P200 charge purchase of participating products member, and one point for every P1,000 cash or P2,000 charge of nonparticipating products or those that are not covered by special promotions. These points can be used to purchase goods.
Puregold also has programs for those who are still thinking about putting up their own sari-sari store. It has a Sari-Sari Store 101 session where budding entrepreneurs get to see how far an initial capital of P10,000 can get them. In some Puregold stores, there is a mockup sari-sari store to see the startup inventory of best-selling products such as shampoo and conditioner, soap, noodles, coffee, chips and detergent.
“We also encourage them to be load retailers for them to earn more. We also help in inventory because some of them stock their sari-sari store as if they were stocking up their own pantry. What they buy for themselves are not always what the customers want,” explains Co.
“We encourage them to buy the fast-selling products and those that we believe will sell well. We encourage them to get the shampoos in sachets and not the whole carton because those are what the consumers want,” he adds. “We also teach them how to sell the product, like maybe not compete on price but maybe in assortment. We also help them properly display their goods.”
The Aling Puring program has certainly improved from where it started 10 years ago. Back then, learning sessions were very informal and conducted within the stores. Only about 100 sari-sari store owners attended. Then eight years ago, the first convention was held. In the last meeting, over 50,000 members participated.
The Tindahan ni Aling Puring program is open to all who have their own business. No membership fee is required, but entrepreneurs must fill up application forms and submit copies of business or barangay permits. Over 93 percent of the Aling Puring members are sari-sari store owners and the rest are wholesalers or bulk buyers.
Co says building its corporate strategy around the sari-sari stores, which account for as much as 40 percent of Puregold’s annual sales, has helped its bottom line, making it one of the most watched companies on the Philippine Stock Exchange.
As of the end of the first quarter, Puregold’s consolidated net profit, which includes sales from over 159 Puregold and Parco stores, six upscale S&R warehouse membership shopping club outlets and 15 Company E-stores, more than doubled to P962 million from the comparative figure the previous year.
The sari-sari store owners definitely had something to do with the growth. Thus, Puregold has every intention of giving the sari-sari store owners more reasons to stay loyal to the growing company. And manufacturers are willing to help.
Co explains that because of the large membership and the volume bought by the roughly 230,000 Aling Puring members, manufacturers and product suppliers have supported the members in terms of incentives such as discounts and freebies.
“We are not selfish about our knowledge because as they grow, we grow, too,” says Co.
As Puregold vice chair Susan Co said during the Tindahan ni Aling Puring Sari-sari Store Convention 2013 held from May 22 to 25 at the World Trade Center: “We want our loyal customers, especially our ‘Tindahan ni Aling Puring’ members, to do good in their businesses … It is our way of giving back to the community. It is our dream that, when we grow, you grow also.”
And there is still a large room for growth as there are an estimated one million sari-sari stores all over the country. Puregold believes that it has barely scratched the surface.
Puregold is so far present in Luzon only, but it will make its presence felt in Mindanao in July when it opens its first store in Davao. The plan is to put up at least 25 Puregold stores every year under the three formats.
The Puregold Price Club is the flagship and largest format, which caters to both commercial and retail clients. Puregold Jr., on the other hand, caters mainly to retail customers and are more like neighborhood stores. Puregold extra, on the other hand, complements the Puregold Price Club and functions more like satellite stores for sari-sari store owners with the product assortments mainly targeting the wholesaler market.
Puregold is intent on building on its success, and it believes that it has a strong foundation in its ever-strengthening relationship with the Aling Puring membership card carrying sari-sari store owners.