Ayala’s Centrio Mall pushes grassroots entrepreneurship with CUBE Bazaar Strip
By MIKE BAÑOS, Editor-at-Large
AYALA Corporation continues to pursue its advocacy to develop entrepreneurs from the grassroots through Cagayan de Oro Gateway Corporation (its joint venture with Anflo Management and Investment and Ayala Land, Inc.) which owns and manages the Centrio Mall in Cagayan de Oro City.
That much was evident with the grand launch of its CUBE Bazaar Strip last Friday, 25 September 2015 at the C.M. Recto entrance of Centrio.
“We got the idea for CUBE when we noted the good performance of the Higalaay Fiesta Bazaar organized by Ms. Pescador at the 3rd floor Bridgeway at Centrio last month,” said Pamela P. Mendez, Centrio deputy general manager. “We invited her to look at this 3rd floor space which was still not leased and see what she could come up with.”
Ms. Mendez explained the concept is an offshoot of Ayala Land’s partnership with local home grown concepts to help develop regional brands through its nationwide network of malls.
During the Merchants’ Preview that preceded Centrio Mall’s opening in 2012, erstwhile ALI President and CEO Antonino T. Aquino said the firm was allocating 10-15 percent of its gross leasable area for local and “home-grown” concepts.
“We would like to have an offering for everything that is going to be needed by our surrounding communities,” said Mr. Aquino. “This is the philosophy which underlines Ayala’s involvement in all its host communities all over the country.”
Although Centrio can accommodate up to 300 tenants composed of local, national and international brands of stores, boutiques, service centers and restaurants, its rates are beyond the reach especially of start-ups.
The brainstorm of the Centrio marketing and operations teams with gutsy retail event organizer Angela Pescador, the “corner in the sky” quietly opened last month, Cagayan de Oro’s Fiesta Month of August, traditionally one of the biggest months for retails sales in one of the country’s “Most Competitive Cities.”
“We thought of grouping these young entrepreneurs together so they could apportion the costs of a shared space among themselves through an organizer like Ms. Pescador,” Candice A. Saligumba, operations associate manager who was the liaison between the group and Centrio Mall. “Our marketing group liked what they saw with her handling of the Higalaay Fiesta Bazaar at the 3rd Floor Bridgeway and thought she was the right person who could make it work.”
Ms. Pescador got together a core group of 27 start-up entrepreneurs, many of whom just had their first venture with the fiesta bazaar, and moved into the 130 sq. m. space beside Time Zone at the 3rd Level of Centrio.
“When we started the place was not yet divided into individual stalls so we just made do with what we had and it was quite jumbled at the start,” Ms. Pescador admits. “This, while they were simultaneously running their fiesta bazaar at the Centrio Bridgeway.”
But it was not all roses for the new venture even if Centrio Mall had record numbers of shoppers during the latest Higalaay Festival.
“When we started, our sales were a little slow since for most of us, it was the first time we were thrust into a store, much less a mall,” Ms. Pescador recalls. “We had very little knowledge of merchandising and the space was in the third floor so tuyounon jud.”
However, the Centrio operations and marketing teams were closely monitoring how the new venture was doing and pitched in to help. First, the mall organized the space into 15 booths at its own cost and got designer Bambi Pacquiao to spruce up the interior with signage and interior decors.
“We have as many as three to four merchants of similar or complementary lines of merchandise sharing one booth,” Angela noted. “I take care of operations and administration of the whole space so Centrio only deals with me. All our internal issues and concerns we handle internally among ourselves.”
Among the product lines carried by CUBE merchants are cosmetics, including US brands like
Mac, Sephora, Urban Decay, Physicians Formula, Rimmel, Loreal, Maybelline, Revlon, Almay, Neutrogena; fashion accessories like branded wallets and scents; electronic gadgets and accessories like power banks and mobile phone fashion; children’s toys; food items like locally made yema, pastillas, chili spice, taro chips and of course very affordable RTW for all ages.
Next, the CUBE merchants got Tipoy Piquero of Renzeez Events to organize a grand launch with Makiyaki Caterer Lanyah Asombrado to set up a buffet for guests and media.
“We thought a fashion event was the best way to ramp up awareness about the CUBE among shoppers,” Angela said. “We got community models who worked for us gratis and Centrio management again came to our rescue by providing us with a free venue at its busiest entrance along C.M. Recto Avenue to ensure maximum exposure for the event.”
Coincidentally, the Friday, 25 September grand launch was an official holiday so there was quite a crowd of shoppers who stopped by to watch the fashion show which everyone declared a complete success. It was immediately followed by a ribbon-cutting and blessing of the CUBE Bazaar Strip and dinner for guests and merchants at the CUBE venue in the 3rd floor.
Depending on how CUBE Bazaar Strip does in the next few weeks, Centrio management is open to the entry of more young entrepreneurs to get into business and take up Ayala’s offer to develop regional brands straight from the grassroots by offering another similar space nearby.