Sep 062014

MANILA, Philippines – The battle in the local retail drug sector has gone far beyond branded pharmaceutical products as acceptance for generics among Filipinos has been on the rise in recent years.

Recently joining the market for low-priced medicines is the Watsons group, one of the biggest pharmacy retail brands in Asia, in its bid to increase sales and corner a bigger portion of the market.

With the notion slowly fading that generics are of low quality and ineffective, Watsons Personal Care Stores (Philippines) Inc. is introducing its own line of high quality and affordable generics medicines.

“One reason why people were not accepting or using generics in the past is because of the quality of generics. If the brand is not well-known, they tend to be wary. Now what we are doing here is we are incorporating the name of Watsons in our own generics products because the name of the company already connotes quality,” Watsons Philippines Health Business director Danilo S. Chiong told The STAR in an interview.

Despite the growing usage of generics in the Philippines in the past couple of years, Chiong said generics still only account for about five to six percent of the country’s total pharmaceutical market, far from the US and other developed nations where generics are being used by as much as 60 to 70 percent of its population.

“Isn’t it ironic that in a country where people seems to be poorer, branded medicine usage is larger? I think this move to generics will be very relevant to the Philippine market,” Watsons Philippines marketing director Maria Victoria Encarnacion said.

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“As a retailer, our mission is to make more choices available to our customers. Now we feel the need to put in also Watsons generics,” Encarnacion added.

Watsons Philippines is a joint venture between SM Prime (40 percent) and Hong Kong’s A.S. Watson & Co. Ltd. of the Hutchison Whampoa Group (60 percent).

The health and beauty brand to date has 382 stores nationwide, bulk of which are located in Luzon.

Watsons currently caters mostly to the A, B, and C market. The move towards generics is seen to extend its reach to the lower-income segment of the market as well.

Chiong said sales from its own generics line is expected to contribute a big chunk to the company’s sales in the next two years.

“First, we want to take advantage of the growing market, growing acceptance of generics. Second, we want Watsons to be able to offer a lot of choices to customers. The normal products which you can buy in other drugstores, it is also in Watsons. But now, we are widening the options by making available Watsons generics,” Chiong said.

Chiong said Watsons started making available its generics brand across all its outlets nationwide as early as May this year.

The Watsons generics line includes maintenance medicines for diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol, antibiotics to fight off the common bacteria, dietary supplements for skin enhancement, anti-ageing and over-all wellness, basic vitamins, oral analgesics, and other over the counter medicines.

Watsons aims to increase its market share by one percent annually through continuous network expansion.

Starting next year, the company plans to open 40 to 50 new stores every year.

Watsons began operations primarily as a pharmacy before becoming the largest health and beauty retail chain in Asia with a network of over 4,000 branches in 37 countries to date.

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