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Gillette Consolidates $300 Million Latin America Market


March 29, 2001
Copyright © 2001 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Gillette will consolidate its Caribbean and Andean districts, with a combined $300 million sales volume, into a new Central region to be managed from San Juan, said Alejandro Markman, general manager of Gillette de Puerto Rico Inc. and of the new central region.

"Starting at the end of March, Puerto Rico will serve as headquarters of Gillete’s Central region. The region is made up of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, other Caribbean island nations, along with Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Surinam, Belize, Guyana, and the duty free markets in Latin America. This is part of the company’s restructuring plan, looking for ways to consolidate regions and markets," said Markman during an exclusive interview with CARIBBEAN BUSINESS at the company’s Cataño warehouse.

There are approximately 700 employees in the entire Central region. Gillette Puerto Rico will manage all administrative duties, in addition to marketing and sales. Product distribution centers will remain in Puerto Rico, Miami, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia.

"In 1996, our operation in Puerto Rico had $20 million in sales, growing each year exponentially. In 1997, Gillette’s acquisition of Duracell required an increase in personnel. Considering the $300 million sales we project for this year, we hope to increase that figure by 12%," said Markman.

Gillette Puerto Rico will soon move to larger offices in Guaynabo’s Metro Office Park. Already under construction, the 24,000-square-foot office facilities will house close to 100 employees. The company will also keep about 10 employees working at its 15,000 square foot warehouse in Cataño and continue storing products in a second warehouse located within Promoexport’s Cataño free-trade zone.

"Among our products, the Gillette shaving and Duracell battery divisions together makeup about 60% of the company’s total sales in Puerto Rico. Duracell’s market share is 72%, and the shaving segment dominates about 85% of the market. The rest of our products (Oral B, Braun, Right Guard, Gillette, and Soft & Dry) are also leaders in their categories."

"Puerto Rico is an upscale market compared to other markets in Latin America. The island’s consumer always looks for the best quality product. Although Puerto Rico’s population is not that large compared to Latin American countries, its consumption rate of Gillette products is higher than Latin American markets. While 30% less than the U.S., Puerto Rico’s product consumption rate is double that of our best market in Latin America," said Markman.

Gillette is carefully monitoring sales of its newest product, the Venus women’s razor and razor blades. First month sales of Venus in Puerto Rico exceeded by 60% the sales Gillette’s Mach III razor first month sales in 1997. According to Markham, the company’s risky strategy to sell a high priced product such as Venus in lower cost establishments has broken a sales paradigm on the island.

"One of the first questions employees asked when they heard Puerto Rico would manage the region was why the island was chosen. Over the years, Gillette has taken a calculated step in developing its Caribbean and Latin American markets. According to a 2000 survey of Latin America’s best cities for business by accounting firm Arthur Andersen, San Juan holds second place after Buenos Aires. In third and fourth place are Mexico City and Sao Paulo.

"By coincidence, Gillette’s main offices in Latin America were established in these same cities, in recognition of their business potential. The company takes into account different variables when looking at a country, such as the professional caliber of its people, the quality of its telecommunication infrastructure, security, and political stability. Puerto Rico scores very well in all of these qualities".

Markman, who has been living in Puerto Rico for the past six years, describes Puerto Rico as "a very important element for the development of Latin America. Professionals on the island are not only bilingual, but also bicultural. This impresses us because they are always open to new ideas and accept them no matter the nationality of the individual it comes from.

"This is not very common. There are few countries in the world where people are culturally open; where you focus on an idea, not on who it comes from. I can only compare this phenomenon to what I’ve seen in my visits to Hong Kong and Singapore," said Markman.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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