Louie Gutierrez, managing director of Philippine chain store Silverworks
Silver jewellery is a hot buy in the Philippines. Its relative affordability and wide range of styles never fail to win over consumers, from the young crowd to the seniors and everyone in between.
Siblings Louie and Loo Gutierrez, 3rd generation gemologists from the acclaimed Ocampo clan of jewellers, introduced the Silverworks brand as the fashion accessory for the younger generation in 1991. What started out as a single kiosk in Makati City, Metro Manila is now a bustling chain store with 70 outlets in shopping malls in the country’s major metropolitan areas. Over the years, the company has stood its ground amid competition and a changing retail landscape.
Managing director Louie Gutierrez shares with SILVERSTYLES (SS) his insights on the Philippine market and Silverworks’ strategy for growth.
SS: What do consumers in the Philippines like about silver jewellery?
Gutierrez: In the Philippine market, silver jewellery holds its own. It is seen as young, hip, classy, fashionable and fun. It is not formal but it can be elegant, and it comes in the latest styles with hot and trendy designs. Silver jewellery spices up everyday outfits and can be worn day and night. People expect silver jewellery to be readily available in almost every mall in the country. Affordability is another big draw. People do not have to wait for a special occasion to buy a silver jewellery piece. They also do not have to save up or set aside a big chunk of their savings for this, unlike expensive gadgets.
SS: What are your fast-moving items?
Gutierrez: This year, dainty, fun and feminine designs are selling well. Layered necklaces and chokers are very popular too. Our bestselling items are priced between US$10 and US$30. Licensed designs and those that are part of the latest movies are always a hit. Another bestseller is meaningful silver jewellery, which evokes personal memories or experiences of places, travel, milestones and friendships.
Crown silver rings by Silverworks
SS: How has business been?
Gutierrez: Our sales last year were very encouraging despite changes in the local retail landscape and consumer buying habits. Our popular items included dainty designs, crown rings with stones, and ring and earring sets, all priced from US$10 to US$30 each. This year’s sales are quite promising – we're already 10 percent up, compared to the same period last year.
SS: Please tell us about your customers.
Gutierrez: Our average customer is 15 to 25 years old. They are today's millennials whose tastes, preferences and lifestyles are driven by social media. These consumers tend to post their every experience online and would like every purchase to be a media milestone. That journey often begins with the impression they get when they see the product or the brand online and culminates in their personal delight in seeing and experiencing the designs and products up close. They love to buy silver jewellery for themselves as well as for their family members and friends. They love surprises, and receiving a jewellery piece as a gift is always emotional and connected to their feelings.
SS: How has the Philippine market changed in recent years?
Gutierrez: There have been several changes in the lifestyles of consumers. Foot traffic in the malls, where our 70 stores are located, has fallen as more and more people opt for the convenience of shopping online. Silver jewellery has become one of the products that consumers view online, along with gadgets and costume jewellery. They want to see and hear about silver jewellery online, not just in brick-and-mortar stores. The younger generation no longer lingers in malls for hours. They spend a great deal of their time on their mobile phones, so our store and our brand’s retail experience must complement their online experience or their impression of our products.
Belle's Necklace in gold-plated silver
from the Beauty and The Beast Collection by Silverworks
SS: How has Silverworks responded to these changes?
Gutierrez: We are quick to keep up with the trends and present collections based on specific themes and events. New information has to quickly be translated into products so that our brand remains relevant to the market. For instance, crown rings have become a top seller due to our country's recent hosting of the Miss Universe pageant. And given our licensing partnership with movie studios like Disney and Warner Brothers, we produce special jewellery collections in line with major film releases such as Beauty and the Beast.
We introduce new designs every couple of weeks. We have a team that is constantly on the lookout for trends on social media. Our marketing team is also composed of young people who have a pulse on what their peers would want.
Over the past year, we've been aggressively strengthening our digital presence. Omni-channel marketing has become key in this new market paradigm. Our team sees to it that people would want to see our products online and then want to get these at our stores as soon as possible. We now provide our customers with an omni-channel experience where they can engage seamlessly with our physical store, our online shops and our social media platforms.
Silver jewellery pieces by Silverworks
SS: Does this translate into greater online sales?
Gutierrez: Online sales have posted the biggest increase although they still account for a small percentage of our revenues. We will however continue to beef up our digital presence to remain relevant in the fast-changing retail landscape. The digital market is definitely the best avenue of growth for us. People are monitor trends so closely nowadays, and the company that processes this information fast and translates it into products will emerge as the clear winner.
Silverworks managing director Louie Gutierrez and his team
SS: What other initiatives have you planned for the year?
Gutierrez: We have already launched our customised/made-to-order jewellery stores. This initiative was implemented to enhance our customers’ experience with jewellery by allowing them to personally design and customise their pieces according to their taste, style and personality. Actually, our professional engraving services have taken on a life of their own as more and more customers would like their jewellery pieces personalised.
We are also growing our corporate sales division, which develops and markets silver jewellery for companies that most often reward their employees for their performance and their years of service. In the Philippines, companies are increasingly using silver jewellery as rewards because their employees are often millennials who are into style, trends and fashion. We also focus on schools, colleges and universities as well as other industries that cater to the younger generation.
Rose necklaces from the Beauty and the Beast Collection of Silverworks
SS: Silverworks manufactures its own silver jewellery and also outsources production locally and overseas. What do you look for in a silver jewellery supplier?
Gutierrez: We have a very hands-on approach to business and I prefer to personally oversee all aspects of the business myself. Our suppliers are carefully chosen to complement our line and help increase our productivity. We consider their capacity to deliver quality materials that meet our stringent standards as fast as possible. The name of the game now is speed in designing, producing and having the item on the sales floor ahead of the rest. This allows us to respond to the market quickly and adjust our inventory to match trends as they happen. We also value suppliers with the initiative to participate in our creative process.
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