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Thursday, August 10, 2006

The bazaar solution

Joining bazaars is a great way to make money in December.

By Katrina Tan

Yoli Celdran found the perfect merchandise to sell in bazaars when she discovered the carryall bag. "I had been participating in Christmas bazaars for the last eight to 10 years," says Celdran, a businesswoman who also runs a dress shop and a cafeteria and manages a revival band. "But it was only around six years ago that I started selling Fold-A-Bags. It's a big carryall bag that can hold everything you want to carry and folds up into the size of a small tote, and it's really nice." Even her youngest daughter Isabel, 23, was so taken with the bags that she joined the business two Christmases ago to help her mother sell them. Since then, Isabel has been helping out with product and booth development.

Mother and daughter sell their bags for only a few days in December, but they start preparing for the Christmas holidays six months before they do. "We have the bags made exclusively for us, and we come out with a new design every year to keep the novelty alive," says Celdran. Isabel prepares the designs as early as July, and within a few weeks she would have produced a prototype. By August, they would have ordered the bulk of their bags-around 3,000 worth P400,000.

'Celdran's overhead doesn't come up to much since the business is seasonal. The cost of her bags aside, she gets to spend only in December, when she pays to set up and rent her booth and spends for the salaries and meals of her driver and sales ladies. She keeps her booth simple. "I join three or four bazaars during the holiday season-usually the Assumption Bazaar [her alma mater, where her schoolmates are regular customers], the Makati Rotary, the Casa Y Jardin, and the Makati Rotary West," she says. She pays through the nose for her booth-around P6,000 to P7,000 a day-and gets to sell her bags for only a few weeks. But "it's still more profitable doing business this time of year because people tend to buy by the dozen," she says. "My bags cost P120 to P260 depending on the size. And while the profits may not be very big, around P8,000 net a day, the best bazaars always guarantee you after-bazaar orders."

Ciara Marasigan usually sells her pieces of jewelry in boutiques in Rustan's Makati, Shangri-La Makati, and Kish. But she also joins yearend bazaars to make her stainless-steel creations available to people looking for unique Christmas gifts. "Most women love the idea of something made-to-order-something for which they can choose the materials they want," she says.

Marasigan, owner of Ciara Creates, has been making and selling jewelry since September 2002. She calls her pieces "functional art"-pieces fashioned out of precious stones embedded in wire. "Every year, I go on at least one buying trip abroad to find beautiful stones in various shapes, textures, and sizes," she says. "I only deal with suppliers with good business track records." She finds keeping up with demand particularly challenging. "It takes me two hours to one whole day to finish one piece, so I can only finish a few pieces a day."

To prepare for the Christmas bazaars, Marasigan starts producing inventory as early as August. "I also plan the look of the booth to reflect the brand image," she says. "I spend on rent, fiberglass-resin packaging, operations costs, research materials, international jewelry shows, salaries, catalogs, and the materials for the jewelry." But it's all worth it. "I earn anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of sales, and business is three times better during the Christmas season. Sometimes customers will offer to pay me extra for the jewelry I'm wearing!"

Mimi Valerio first organized the annual St. James the Great Christmas Bazaar at the Cuenca Community Center in Ayala Alabang in 1992. "It wasn't a personal business venture," she says. "I was simply asked to hold a bazaar to help raise funds for the construction of our parish, St. James the Great." The first bazaar was held on the main floor of the church, but because it had no roof, Valerio spent much of her time thinking of ways to shield the venue from the sun. The following year, she decided to move the bazaar to the ground floor where the crypt was. "A lot of people came despite the crude setup," she says. "The concessionaires even enjoyed displaying their wares inside the hundreds of little cubicles intended for the urns!"

Valerio has since partnered with her daughter Nikki. They start talking to concessionaires for the Christmas bazaar as early as June and receive payments by July, but the increasing number of concessionaires is becoming a problem. "We don't accept all applicants," says Valerio. "We're very selective and require them to submit product samples, and sometimes we even discourage some from joining if we know their products won't sell."

Mother and daughter spend much of their time setting up the bazaar. "The main expense goes to infrastructure," says Valerio. "We spend several hundred thousand pesos for electricity, the rent for the venue and the chairs, tents, and tables. We also spend a lot on advertising." When the bazaar opens in early December, customers come from as far south as Cavite, Lucena, Batangas, and Laguna and as far north as Valenzuela, assuring the organizers of another profitable venture. And the beauty of it is that all the income from the bazaar goes to the parish. Last year alone, the proceeds allowed the Valerios to buy enough air-conditioning units to cool the church.

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