The expansion of the economy, along with the rise of the Filipino middle-class, fuels the growth not only of local companies but also of multinational firms that have a presence in the country.
One of them is Kohler Co., a 144-year-old US company that sells so-called “affordable luxury” products such as bath fixture and other bath masterpieces that can complement the aspiration of the country’s growing middle class.
“The Kohler company has been in the Philippines for over 30 years now. Some say our products are very expensive. I must agree with that, but with our recent promotional strategy, we have considered to focus on the Philippines, adding the higher middle class as another growth area for us here. We are here to provide the right amount of luxury to the Philippine market,” says Angel Yang, president Kohler, kitchen and bath division in Asia Pacific.
Kohler was named after the company’s founder, John Michael Kohler, who purchased a foundry in Wisconsin in 1873. It is also the name of a village in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin.
Kohler K&B business started in the Philippines in the 1980s. It established a legal entity under Kohler Asia Pacifc Ltd. Philippines in 2012.
As a Kohler executive, Yang has visited the Philippines several times particularly during company meetings and sponsorship events on utilitarian art.
Yang says Kohler has a strong association with art and it has its own museum back in Kohler, Wisconsin, a village created by the long standing success of Kohler as an American brand. It is where the company is headquartered.
“We associate Kohler with art. We started our art campaign in the US 39 years ago. Our company represents art in every product we make. This is now how we see the company, not just what we produce but an appreciation of how well we chose the art that gives life to our products,” says Yang.
Time and again, Kohler has represented the art of making bathroom products.
Yang says one of Kohler’s best product lines - Veil is all about “effortless” experience.
This line is a modern set of fixtures bordering on futuristic technology like the automatic toilet seat where apart from the automated buttons, the seat itself opens and closes upon sensing movements of the user complete with sanitized flushing technology.
The company is also intent on producing products using deep-cut technology to address conservation needs of the future, she says.
Another innovative line is the Kohler Artifacts bathroom faucet collection that features the state-of-the-art physical vapor deposition process, giving faucets a rich luster that resists scratching, tarnishing and corrosion.
“These are among other products that we introduced to the market lately. As a global leader in the manufacture of luxury kitchen and bath products, we always seek to break the mold of conventional bathroom and kitchen fixtures,” Yang says.
Kohler has four appointed distributors in the Philippines with as many as 44 showrooms. There are about 39 showroom operated by Wilcon Depot, three by Dexterton Corp., one by Filmon Finishing Studio and one by Sanitec Import Ventures Inc.
In 2017, Kohler felt the need to add eight more showrooms in Quezon Ave., Bacolod, Butuan, Cabanatuan, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Tacloban and Silang, Cavite.
Yang says the company aims to expand its footprint in the Philippines by forging partnerships with home and hotel developers.
“Our mission is to contribute to high level living for those people to experience our products.
The Philippines is more of the strategic market for us. It is a very important market.
We are putting in a lot of focus in terms of resources and support since we are very excited about Kohler’s future in this market. We see ourselves as a total bathroom solution partner, not only in terms of product but of service as well,” she says.
Yang says the Philippine market, although price-sensitive, is also brand conscious and likes anything and everything American. Filipino consumers also pay attention to aesthetic details as well as functionality.
“The trend we see in the Philippines is more of being responsible in the use of resources like water conservation. We see this a form of social responsibility. They start paying attention to sustainability like water conservation. This is an evolving trend. And we are moving high fast in this area. We have products that address this specific need,” Yang says.
She says to grow in the Philippines for another 50 to 100 years, Kohler must build a sustainable model.
“That is why we need to understand consumer behavior, the local culture. How we can provide tailor-made services and products into this market. Brand awareness or brand building is an idea that came to our minds as one of the factors that will help us sustain growth in the Philippines,” she says.
Kohler is creating a synergistic approach to growing the business through retail and by contracts with developers.
Kohler believes that the company continues to grow with the Philippine market, hence its optimism to expanding in Mindanao.
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