AMERICAN Express (M) Sdn Bhd (Amex) which has been growing at a steady rate of 10% to 15% yearly, expects a 10% growth in business for 2003, according to its global establishment services director Ani Dinasan.
Our figures in May showed an uptrend in spending, with the retail sector registering a 10% to 15% growth while spending in restaurants increased by 10% compared to April, Dinasan said, adding that it was a good indicator that things were picking up.
He said inbound traffic into the country was also picking up and this augured well for the lodgings industry.
Amex foreign card members contribute to over 30% of our total billings in the country. With the containment of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, more card members will be moving cross border and we are confident that inbound spending would gradually pick up, especially from Singapore which contributes 30% to 40% to our inbound billings, Dinasan told Starbiz.
He said the retail and restaurants sector would also benefit from increased domestic spending spurred by the economic package and expected to see a positive uptrend there.
Dinasan said Amex had also launched its membership privileges programme in April to drive card members to spend while offering value at the same time.
It is a regional project offering both international and Malaysian card members an opportunity to enjoy exclusive privileges ranging from shopping, dining and travelling.
Currently, there are 880 merchants located in eight countries namely Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia, India, Indonesia and Japan, participating in the programme of which 50% is in the shopping category, with 36% in dining and 14% in lodging.
In Malaysia, we have more than 200 participating merchants and we hope to increase this by adding another 200 by year-end, he said.
Dinasan said the primary objective of the programme was for the company to work with its merchants and to support them during the challenging environment by encouraging card members to patronise their establishments.
We expect participating merchants to see an increase of 20% to 25% in business from the programme, he said, adding that the programme was also targeted to rejuvenate the merchants' business.
He said the company expected to spend close to RM1mil in advertising and promotions for the duration of the campaign.
So far, the results are encouraging, showing an increase of 10% to 20% in our card member spending in the different industries, especially in the retail and travel sectors, Dinasan said, adding that it was a positive sign of improving sentiments.
To support the 12% compounded annual growth rate in its card member base over the last two years, Dinasan said Amex was focusing on signing up merchants in industries like utilities, education, insurance to hypermarkets and petrol stations.
Using the Amex card to pay recurring bills would serve as a great convenience to our card members, he said, adding that at present the three top card member spending comes from the airline, lodging and restaurant sectors.
He said the company had close to 30,000 merchants in Malaysia and planned to add 3,000 new merchants yearly into its network.
Merchants see the value of accepting our cards as our members are very loyal and tend to spend more per charge than users of other cards, he explained.
Dinasan said Amex had been building up a good portfolio of customers throughout the years and planned to continue focusing on the more affluent segment of the market or high spenders.
We are very particular about the quality of our card members and our criteria are more stringent. Our members are financially-sound and have good financial discipline and our merchants appreciate this, he said, adding that about 60% of the company's members made at least two trips out of Malaysia annually.
The Amex charge card is used in the same manner as a credit card except that any outstanding amount must be settled in full by the due date on the monthly bill. Unlike credit cards that have a credit limit, Amex cards have no pre-set spending limit.