Having spent 25 of the past 26 years in the States, I missed out on many developments in the Philippines.
Take 168, for example. It’s the name of a mall-type business that started in Divisoria–the original shopping hub (it dates back to the Spanish era, circa 1600) of Manila.
One of the things that distinguishes 168 from the larger, more conventional malls is the dominant presence in the mall of vendors that sell Chinese-branded and Chinese-originated products. There are two types of malls in the Philippines: the ones patterned after the western model (SM and Robinsons) and the ones that are homegrown (168 is one example). Western-style malls contain vendors known in the west (U.S.A. and Europe) like Gap (apparel) and Ethan Allen (furniture). 168-type malls contain vendors that sell China-manufactured products.
In 168-type malls, you notice that vendors don’t care much about their identity. Many vendors don’t emphasize their brand and, indeed, many vendors don’t even have a brand name. Instead of reminding its shoppers that they’re shopping at Gap, for instance, a 168-type vendor will
trumpet the merchandise it carries: shirts, pants, etcetera.
I thought 168 was the name because it was the mall’s original street address (like 168 Main Street) but it turned out that 168 was chosen because it’s auspicious.
In Chinese culture, certain numbers are believed by some to be auspicious (吉利) or inauspicious (不利) based on the Chinese word that the number name sounds similar to.
Lucky numbers are based on Chinese words that sound similar to other Chinese words. The numbers 6, 8, and 9 are believed to have auspicious meanings because their names sound similar to words that have positive meanings.
The original 168 started in 2002 in Divisoria–Manila’s original shopping hub.
The one that opened in Puerto Princesa three months ago appears to be owned by the same group. It’s located along the National Highway in Barangay San Manuel. Up to the mall’s grand opening in early-December 2011, they were offering to lease 30, 42, 45, and 60 sqm stalls at the rate of 500 pesos per square meter. This was negotiable of course.
Opening day crowds
December 5, 2011 was a hot and muggy day.
The emerging middle class
I recall certain images from the past 30 years. There was a collection of photographs that showed “typical” households in the U.S., Japan, some developing country, a country in western Europe, and so on. In each photo is a husband and wife (or a father and mother) with their children and behind them, sprawled around them, are all the items inside their homes. Everything in their house was taken outside and placed in front of the house. The family is in front of their belongings that, in turn, is in front of the house.
Similar thoughts filled me when I imaged this collection. These items, we can safely assume, require middle class income.
Palawan’s average annual family income was estimated to be almost 133,000 in 2009. It’s greater now, possibly 140,000. I’m sure that Palawan’s economy grew faster than most provinces in the past ten years, and especially in the past two. The engine driving this growth is tourism.
Palawan is in Region 4B. This region is called “Mimaropa” which stands for Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan.
For comparison, here’s the page about the National Capital Region, that area of 17 cities that many refer to as “MetroManila.”
How to spend 133,000 pesos
First, get customers in the mood to shop.
Then, dazzle them with abundance and selection.
One thing stood out; nearly every manufactured product being sold in the mall came from China!