A ‘Merry’ disruption in the retail industry
Edgar “Injap” Sia II has always found ways to disrupt the industry.
The fast-food chain he founded, Mang Inasal, easily became a crowd favorite owing to its affordable, tasty meals and unli-rice offer, giving many established fast-food restaurants a run for their money. His chain of small community centers, CityMall, found its way to tertiary cities, instead of going the usual route of setting up in urban centers. His Hotel 101 brand under Hotel of Asia Inc., the hospitality arm of DoubleDragon Properties, offered a hassle-free, alternative platform for investment through a simplified condotel concept.
Naturally, Sia’s latest venture, MerryMart, is no exception.
It’s unusual enough that the young tycoon proceeded with MerryMart’s initial public offering (IPO) in June—the first company to do so—amid a challenging period, given the COVID-19 outbreak and the ensuring stringent lockdowns imposed by the government. With its IPO twice oversubscribed, MerryMart raised P1.6 billion. But what perhaps made it even more attractive to both institutional and retail investors are the aggressive plans lined up for this promising venture.
“MerryMart right now has 11 operating branches, and we target to end this year, 2020, with a total of 25 branches. We aim to open the 100th MerryMart branch by December next year,” Sia said in an e-mail interview with Inquirer.
Earlier news reports showed that MerryMart targets to build a total of 1,200 outlets by 2030 with annual sales hitting P120 billion, in a bid to become a top supermarket chain. It has three formats: the full-size MerryMart Grocery, MerryMart Market, which houses more specialized products, and the MerryMart Store, which offers a three-in-one concept combining a mini-grocery, personal care shop and pharmacy.
Among Sia’s innovations is the creation of a drive-thru MerryMart, which formed part of his response to the changing preferences and landscape amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The first MerryMart drive thru is currently in the works and is targeted to start operations in Iloilo City by next year.
Sia’s bullishness in MerryMart’s prospects is not unfounded. Amid the pandemic and the quarantine, MerryMart has so far proven to be resilient.
“We are also grateful that MerryMart is solely in the non discretionary retail sector that remained resilient during the pandemic and all the MerryMart branches have been operational all throughout the lockdown period. We will continue to nurture the MerryMart brand as our goal is soon to make MerryMart available in all strategic areas nationwide, significantly grow its volume, and make the MerryMart brand soon become a well-loved Filipino homegrown household consumer brand,” Sia explained.
Non-discretionary consumer segment includes groceries and pharmacies selling essential goods that people consume regardless of the economic condition.
“The lead time to open the branches just takes a bit longer due to the transport and flight interruptions from Metro Manila to the provinces but has improved lately compared to a few months ago,” he added.
Many investors, too, are sharing Sia’s optimism about his latest venture as they are banking on his business savvy, keen foresight and knack for disrupting the industry to become one of the market leaders—as they have seen with DoubleDragon.
Sia assured that for both DoubleDragon and MerryMart, their team’s strategy is the same, which is to continue putting in the hard work to build its foundation, make both companies remain relevant for the long term, and become durable companies with deep sustainable roots.
“We are grateful that the portfolio of DoubleDragon remained resilient. For CityMall, being a small community center, where majority of its tenants offer the basics and essentials, played a vital role in serving communities across various provinces. The Hotel101 and Jinjiang Inns have also played a vital role during the lockdown as these were booked by long staying guests and BPO (business process outsourcing) employees. The office buildings—DD Meridian Park, Jollibee Tower and SkySuites Office Tower—remained stable. The industrial warehouse complex chain that we are expanding, called CentralHub, has been further validated as a sunrise sector in the real estate industry,” he further disclosed.
“We will continue to nurture and strengthen the string of hard asset portfolio of DoubleDragon moving forward. We believe that the carefully selected 203 hectares of prime properties that DoubleDragon has accumulated in the past years will continue to grow its value as the titled land in the Philippines is freehold and the value keeps appreciating year on year. To the benefit of the company, majority of these prime properties are spread out in the city centers of various provinces and were acquired by the company from 2014 to 2016 when land prices were still far lower,” Sia concluded.
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