By Denise A. Valdez

THE growing affinity of many Filipinos for Korean culture has led Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc. (RRHI) to bring in South Korea’s No Brand stores to the Philippines.

Last Friday, RRHI subsidiary Robinsons Supermarket Corp. launched the country’s first No Brand store at Robinsons Galleria in Ortigas Avenue, Quezon City.

At the sidelines of the launch, RRHI Merchandising Director Daisy Lyn G. Sy said Korean products are recording a 15% minimum sales growth year-on-year from the company’s existing supermarkets. This demand, she said, is one of the reasons the company decided to bring in No Brand to the Philippines.

“In the supermarket, we already have an assortment of Korean products. And we saw that every year, their sales were growing year on year on year. So we could clearly see that there’s a bigger interest in Korean products,” Ms. Sy told BusinessWorld.

“I think the Korean Drama phenomenon helps the Filipinos understand more of the Korean culture,” she added.

No Brand is the private label product line of South Korean retailer E-Mart, Inc., which Ms. Sy said approached Gokongwei-led RRHI last year to discuss plans to enter the Philippines. Under the contract, RRHI should open 10 No Brand stores in the country by April 2021.

“We’re opening the second one in December, which will be at the Robinsons South Galleria in Laguna. And then the third one will be at Robinsons Place Magnolia, next year, maybe April or May,” she said.

Other No Brand locations being considered are Robinsons Place malls in Dasmariñas, Imus and General Trias and spaces inside Ayala-owned malls.

The local franchise of No Brand offers a wide array of food products such as ready-to-eat food, snacks, cooking ingredients, cold cuts and beverages. It also carries skincare products, toiletries, stationary and kitchenware.

Popular items such as canned potato chips are priced at P57.25-71.25, a 400-gram bucket of butter cookies at P147.75, a 400-gram bucket of choco chip cookies at P177.75 and cereal bags at P221.50-261.50.

Ms. Sy said Philippine No Brand stores is offering 700 distinct items from the South Korean brand’s portfolio. However, some items such as beverages, however, will not be offered here because of their short shelf life.

With a dedicated No Brand store in the country, Ms. Sy said Robinsons Supermarket is looking to compete with small Korean grocery stores that currently offer some No Brand items. The No Brand stores operated by Robinsons Supermarket are allowed to carry other Korean branded products such as ice cream, noodles and snacks.

Ms. Sy said she hopes Korean restaurants would eventually buy cooking ingredients and condiments from No Brand stores as these are shipped directly from South Korea.

“Basically what we’d like to happen is for us to be able to cater to every type of market. With Rustans as part of our portfolio, we aim to get into the premium market. With this, it’s supposed to be a specialty store. So there are some segments of the market who are really looking for something new, quality products, but priced reasonably… This is the concept that No Brand is offering,” she said, referring to RRHI’s acquisition of Rustan Supercenters, Inc. last year.

RRHI posted an attributable net income of P2.88 billion in the nine months to September, down 25% from a year ago, amid a 27% growth in net sales to P116.16 billion.

Shares in the company at the stock exchange went down 0.60 points or 0.79% to P75.70 each on Friday.