RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Vendors displayed their wares at the Philippine Trade Expo at the Hawaii Convention Center on Thursday. Some vendors complained about the poor buyer and distributor turnout and problems getting shipments through customs.
Filipino trade expo disappoints some
Customs problems and poor turnout surface as complaints
Some vendors at the Philippine International Trade Expo at the Hawaii Convention Center this week were left without products to show or sell after their shipping containers were held up in customs.
In addition, other vendors complained about the poor buyer and distributor turnout.
Organizers said the two containers holding products for about 30 vendors arrived at the end of November and but were not allowed through customs into the United States and were sent back to the Philippines on Friday.
The shipment was sent by the Phil Exports Federation, an association of exporters in the Philippines, organizers said.
Trade show organizers worked with the federation to find a way to release the items, finishing two to three weeks worth of work in two or three days, said Harry Alonso, co-chair of the Philippine International Trade Expo. But in the end, federation leaders decided it was too late and too costly and had the freight returned.
"We put in every effort we could to get those products out," Alonso said. "It's a sad situation."
Some booths at the expo were empty yesterday, showing only the names of the businesses.
About 50 local vendors and 97 companies from the Philippines had signed up to exhibit at the expo, which was one of the closing events for the Filipino Centennial celebration.
The average expenses for hotel, airfare, shipping and floor space was about $4,000, estimated Inier Loyola Candor, the marketing manager of El Roi Enterprises, a housewares manufacturer and exporter at the exhibition.
El Roi Enterprises spent almost $10,000 in product development solely for its Hawaii exhibit, creating 300 designs of wooden bags in the hopes of expanding into Hawaii's market, Candor said.
The majority of the company's goods were returned to the Philippines with the containers, but a smaller shipment sent by Fed Ex was on display.
Candor was also disappointed in the turnout at the expo.
"The bottom line is we're expecting a lot of buyers. ... Our expectations weren't met. That's why we feel shortchanged," he said.
Organizers said about 2,500 people attended the expo.
Visitors took advantage of last-minute sales yesterday as vendors reduced prices rather than take inventory home.
Fely Domingo Wayfield said she told the vendors to keep the change as she shopped for bargains: "I pity them. They came all the way over here and they cannot show their products."
Marie Cutiyog, who was selling wooden spoons to Wayfield, said: "It's a flop. The buyers are just walk-ins. There are no wholesale buyers."
She added: "What we expect is to sell to the distributors. That's the main purpose in coming here -- to expand your market."
Alonso, the co-chair of the event, said many of the commercial buyers were from chain stores, which made it seem as if there were fewer buyers.
Not everyone was unhappy with the show.
"It's great," said Marlyn Laguna, the owner of Marlag Shellcraft, a jewelry business. A wholesaler requested 10,000 of Laguna's necklaces and maybe a continuing order to supply a local retailer.
However, Laguna said she probably would not return if the event is held again. "It's very expensive," she said.