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About two weeks ago, I celebrated with friends the 45th anniversary of Wilcon Depot. I congratulated its chairman emeritus and founder William Belo and his CEO-daughter Lorraine Belo-Cincochan, and of course our good friend, Wilcon’s COO Rose Bosch Ong, on this landmark event.
Wilcon has come a long way since it started in 1977 as a modest 60-square meter hardware store along Quezon Avenue, selling at the time only home finishing products. Reaching its 45-year milestone is a testament to the company’s success and commitment to help Filipino homeowners build, improve, and personalize their homes for a comfortable life.
Rose said 45 years in the retail industry has not been an easy feat and she can attest to that as she has journeyed with Wilcon for many years to its current place as an industry leader. For a company to be around after 45 years means they have survived the Asian financial crisis, the ups and downs of the currency market, various political and social unrest, countless typhoons and earthquakes, and even local conflicts near some areas where they’ve chosen to set up shop.
Particularly impressive is their aggressive expansion into the provinces. It seems that wherever Wilcon goes, development follows. Or it could be the other way around. Their entry into the small towns and cities means that they are confident that local economies there are primed for greater activity. Either way, it has worked out splendidly for Wilcon and the towns it serves.
Wilcon’s expansion into key fast-growing cities outside the NCR helps create jobs and stimulate infrastructure development and economic activity in those areas. It’s decisions to expand outside of the NCR greatly contributes to decentralizing growth and development, and bringing it outside the traditional urban centers. How many MSMEs have benefited from their decision to put up a branch in, say, Butuan or Tarlac? Although the majority of MSMEs can be found in the NCR, collectively, four out of five are in the provinces.
Economic activity closely mimics the concentration of MSMEs because they benefit from the presence of infrastructure, such as commercial centers, bridges, seaports and roads. A road that becomes well-lit in the evening means a carinderia can extend its operating hours. On a smaller scale, apartments and dormitories being constructed means there will be painters and plumbers who will find employment, and will mean the availability of accommodations for government employees, merchants, and students.
When Wilcon sources its merchandise from local suppliers, it redounds to so many benefits down the line. When they make small companies part of their value chain, they become the big brother to entrepreneurs and nudge them to professionalize their processes and increase their productivity. Wilcon’s own journey, which started 45 years ago as a small shop and now as a publicly traded company, can attest to the breadth of possibilities there are for growth among small and medium enterprises.
I am also told that Wilcon tries to be a good neighbor in the towns where they choose to locate. They try and tread lightly on energy and water resources for their massive, big-box stores. If you’ve ever been to a Wilcon store, you’ll know that they design their buildings to bring in as much natural light into the selling area. They also try and hire as many locals as they can to man their stores.
They are also there when it’s time to rebuild. During times of earthquakes and typhoons, you appreciate that there is a Wilcon branch where building supplies are most needed. During the height of the COVID pandemic, Wilcon remained a good partner of Go Negosyo. During our vaccination campaigns, their nationwide network helped to get vaccinations done in their branches in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. In fact, they are aware of how their expanded store network makes them a member of many local communities. They don’t just sell to these communities, they make sure they become part of them. Their full support of our efforts during the pandemic can attest to that.
They also continue to be a partner of Go Negosyo’s efforts to mentor MSMEs throughout the country. Even with the mobility restrictions and the economic uncertainty, they remain steadfast in believing that development will come, but only if we work together. Even after the pandemic brought mobility to a halt in 2020, Wilcon managed to open new branches through to 2021 and until the present.
And that is what is commendable about Wilcon. They don’t shy away from being pioneers anywhere they go. When they build it, development will come.