Retailers vie for Filipino business

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 February, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 February, 1995, 12:00am

RETAILERS are waking up to an untapped, captive market worth more than $450 million a month - domestic helpers.

About 130,000 domestic helpers live in Hong Kong, more than 120,000 of them from the Philippines, but there are very few shops and services catering specifically for them.

With the exception of one or two remittance offices in Sha Tin, nearly all Philippine services, such as travel agents and product stores, are in World Wide Plaza in Central - a situation which Filipino groups say adds to the congestion in Statue Square on Sundays.

But given the group's vast spending power, retailers are moving to take advantage.

The undersecretary of the Association of Retailers and Tourism, Quince Chong Wai-yan, said domestic helpers were now recognised as a massive potential market for some of their members.

'We definitely see this group as having potential,' she said.

'Some of our members are already doing a lot of business with the Filipinos, such as Giordano and Bossini. But their spending power tends to be at the lower end of the scale, mainly on daily necessities and a bit of clothing.

'However, we encourage our members to promote a strategy for attracting domestic workers,' she said.

An estimated 75 per cent of domestic helpers' earnings are sent back to their country of origin.

The market has attracted the attention of the Kowloon Circle shopping centre in Hunghom which has launched a major drive for domestic workers, including renaming itself 'Pinoy World'.

A spokesman for the centre, Henry Lobrin, said that since the Kowloon Circle centre was in an industrial estate, it got little business on Sundays, though it is large enough to accommodate several thousand domestic helpers.

He said the centre management was trying to attract domestic helper-based businesses and customers by providing live music and showing Filipino films at the centre's cinema.

A spokesman for the Asian Domestic Workers Union, Remy Borlongan, said while she supported more services and retail outlets catering for Filipino needs, she warned that retailers should not try to take advantage of their funds by charging higher prices.