MANILA: The retail sector in the Philippines is expected to grow sharply in the next few years thanks to a combination of the greater spending power of the local population and an influx of tourists seeking luxury bargains.

Retailing currently contributes around 14% to the country's GDP but that could rise to 20% within the next decade.

Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo told the Inquirer that at the end of 2014 GDP per capita was close to $3,000, which was, according to economists, "the take off point wherein you will see tremendous increases in consumer spending".

"The future looks very bright for retailing," he said. And his comments were echoed by Samie Lim, chair emeritus of the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA), who pointed out that the per capita figure could be much higher in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu.

Retailers are set to benefit not just from local spending, boosted by a growing business outsourcing industry, but also from tourist spending as the country becomes a shopping destination.

Consul Robert Joseph, chairman emeritus of the Network of Independent Travel Agencies, suggested that more and more luxury brands were entering the market and so changing how visitors viewed the nation.

"Shopping now has become essential to the destination mix," he said, and while many of the brands now present were also available in tourists' home countries, they were cheaper in the Philippines.

The Sun Star reported the experience of Tory Burch, an American lifestyle brand which had set up in Cebu, having noted the booming tourism sector and an affluent expatriate population.

"Cebu's market is vibrant and is fashion-forward," said Audrey Anna Laglagaron, sales executive of ELC Beauty. "We are happy to report that we are performing well here."

The UK government is also promoting investment in the Philippines, with its ambassador expecting more British brands to enter the retail sector. Already Filipino supermarket chains are creating tie-ups with UK retailers and leading coffee chain Costa Coffee is due to open its first store later this year.

Data sourced from the Inquirer, Sun Star, ABS-CBN News; additional content by Warc staff