Finding opportunity in retail

HARD work is a business’ single biggest competitive advantage. No business lasts long without the required work being put into it.

Robert Go’s entrepreneurial journey is proof of this.

He successfully transformed the family’s wholesale business into a retail venture. The chain of Prince Hypermart stores has 45 branches located all over the country.

Prince Retail Holdings Inc. will end 2018 with 50 branches, with some new openings in Central Luzon. It is setting aside P250 million to fund the store expansion.

Robert grew up in Carbon, which is Cebu’s oldest and largest farmers’ market. His family runs Prince Marketing that sells wholesale plastic and kitchen wares.

“I grew up helping our father run the business. It was more of a school-warehouse-school set-up. We were all trained how to manage and operate the wholesale business.

In high school, I went with our salesmen to meet our customers in Visayas and Mindanao,” said Robert, the youngest of three.

Robert finished business economics in the University of the Philippines-Diliman. After college, he joined the family business and was given the task of booking orders and collecting payments.

Robert went around the Visayas and Mindanao. He rode buses and shipping vessels alone to meet with new clients, as well as book orders and collect payments from their customers.

“I visited every market I passed by. That’s where I was able to build my network with micro and small entrepreneurs,” he said.

When his father underwent heart surgery, Robert was asked to take over the business. His elder brother, Nelson, took care of the kitchenware manufacturing business.

“We were able to grow the wholesale business. However, like any other business, we also encountered challenges. Shipping companies in Manila opened direct routes to areas where we served, allowing suppliers to directly sell their goods to (our) vendors. Wholesaling that time was starting to decline,” shared Robert.

In 1989, Robert stumbled upon an opportunity while on vacation in the United States.

“While I was walking around waiting for my wife’s scheduled delivery, I saw a lot of warehouse clubs. I saw a simple way of doing business that is viable in the Philippines,” said Robert.

When he got home, he converted the family’s 700-square-meter warehouse in the North Reclamation Area into a store.

In 1990, Prince Retail was born. Two years after, Robert expanded the warehouse’s size into a 2,100-square-meter facility to carry more brands. In 1993, the company expanded to Mandaue City and opened a 3,000-square-meter store.

When Robert’s children Rhea, Rina, Rissa, Jan and Jedd started joining the business, the family’s store concept slowly transitioned from a retail store into a hypermart, an expansive facility that combines a supermarket and a department store.

Fast forward to this year, the chain now has 850,000 Prince Royalty members and growing. From three workers in 1990, Prince Hypermart now employs 4,000 direct workers.

Robert is currently the Cebu chapter president of the Philippine Retailers Association. He also served as president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2004 to 2006.

What was your first job?

Immediately after college, I joined the family business. I handled the booking and collections unit. After seeing the decline in the wholesale business, we were fortunate to immediately venture into a retail store. We started with one cash register, one cashier, and two staff members.

We transformed our warehouse. We repainted and placed the kitchen and plastic wares on display, as well as imported furniture. I printed flyers of our new store and placed them on the cars of churchgoers in Sacred Heart. Thank God, they visited us and bought items from us.

From selling kitchen and plastic wares, we eventually diversified into groceries and some other imported products.

Who inspired you to get into business?

I saw a lot of warehouse clubs in the US with retail formats that are viable in the Philippines. I found a simple way of doing business by selling goods in bulk at discounted prices to business and private customers.

However, over the years, I saw how the business has helped spur entrepreneurial opportunities, especially among sari-sari store owners. Through our affordable and accessible products, and presence of stores in remote areas, we are able to cater the demands of the town and increase consumption and spending activities.

When did you realize this was what you were meant to do?

Through our business, we are able to help some 850,000 sari-sari store become financially literate.

More than just selling them items at lesser prices for their own business, we teach them management inventory and basic accounting so they grow their sari-sari store business. We embarked on this project because it pains us to see entrepreneurs stop doing business all because they ran out of capital.

We also offer micro-finance by lending to them P3,000 worth of merchandise goods to sell so they’d be discouraged to borrow from 5-6 lenders. We want our sari-sari store partners to grow because when they grow, we also grow.

Why did you pick this type of business or industry?

Retail is a flourishing business, especially for a consumption-driven economy like the Philippines. We are also known for being a sachet economy with a high number of entrepreneurs who are into the sari-sari business industry.

Where did you get the training you needed to succeed?

It was my father, Segundino, who taught me how to become an entrepreneur. He taught me the value of hard work, persistence and resilience. I was made to believe that you will always gain something when you put hard work on it.

How many times did you fail before you succeeded?

Retailing isn’t always a sunshine industry. There will always be challenges. But the important thing is for you to spot new opportunities. You need to look ahead. Look for the bright spots in business.

Source: Local News

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