MANILA - The consumer market in the Philippines is becoming more robust and vibrant as economic growth swells the ranks of the middle class.
The Southeast Asian country's per capita gross domestic product is expected to exceed $3,000 this year, raising expectations for stronger demand for big-ticket items. The Philippines has long been a laggard compared with neighbours such as Thailand, but it now appears poised for a period of solid growth, supported by stable macroeconomic conditions.
Companies are responding to the growth of middle-class consumers in the country by bringing higher-end products to market. Japan's Panasonic, which has been manufacturing and selling household appliances in the Philippines for nearly five decades, has started offering high-end products locally this year.
At an electronics store in Makati, a business district in Metro Manila, a large Panasonic refrigerator has pride of place near the entrance and is emblazoned with a "made in Japan" sign. Its price tag, at around 90,000 pesos (S$2,700), puts it beyond the reach of most Filipinos.
Up to now, Panasonic has focused its marketing in the Philippines on cheaper products - two-drum washing machines and window air conditioners. The reason was straightforward: Decades of political turmoil and economic stagnation hampered the growth of the middle class and kept most Filipinos poor.