Jan 282013

MANILA, Philippines – Watsons Personal Care Stores (Philippines) Inc., partly owned by mall operator SM Prime Holdings Inc., has lined up an aggressive expansion program this year, banking on the strong economic growth.

The personal care and pharmacy firm targets to reach more than 350 stores this year across the country, an official said.

“We will continue to expand stores. This year, we are actually opening 40 stores and we will be expanding not only in the metropolis but also outside,” Robert Sun, general manager of Watsons Philippines told reporters.

This will allow the company to grow its sales by 12 percent this year, double the estimated six-percent Philippine economic growth, Sun said.

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 company ended 2012 with 315 stores after 47 new branches in areas like Butuan, Isabela, Puerto Princesa and Tuguegarao.

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Sun said the budget last year was just 40 stores but the company expanded faster, which can also happen this year.

“We put up stores in malls but we also put up stores where people live and work,” Sun said, adding that 75 percent of operating branches are located in shopping malls.

Watsons Philippines, which started operations 10 years ago, is the exclusive drug store for all the SM supermarkets.

“We want to accelerate our stand alone [store expansion] eventually because when we go to the provinces, not all provinces have malls,” Sun said.

“We are trying to make our stores more acceptable for the Filipino customers,” Sun said.

To date, drugs account for 40 percent of Watsons Philippines’ sales, with 60 percent coming from beauty products.

This business trend will continue but the company sees a big potential is growing sales of its generic and branded medicines.

Last year, sales of Watsons Philippines gained 11 percent, Sun said, allowing Watsons Philippines to outperform the industry.

All Watsons Philippines stores are company owned. The Philippine operations account for eight percent of the Southeast Asia portfolio of A.S. Watson, Sun said.

“And everyone wants to expand in the Philippines especially the foreigners because they see the passion of the Filipinos and the growing market,” he said.

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