Introducing Joey Qua, CEO, Collezione-c2.com with 25 branches nationwide and a growing restaurant business.
1. Can you tell us more about your background in retail?
We started Collezione C2 15 years ago with one branch in Festival Mall Alabang. Collezione C2 is a second generation brand that I started back in 2000 after coming back from my studies and work in the U.S.
The original Collezione (C1) was established by my father 43 years ago (est. 1972) when he saw the need to develop a local label (of polo shirts) in order fulfil the needs of the Philippine market that had a severe shortage in supply of quality clothing during that time due to heightened import and travel restrictions because of Martial Law.
Today, Collezione C2 has grown to 25 branches nationwide. It exists side by side with the mother brand Collezione (C1) which is the more classic and conservative label, designed to cater to a more mature set of customers and sold in department stores only – while on the other hand, Collezione C2 which is the more hip and modern label, caters to the younger segment of the market and is sold only in free standing stores in the different malls around the country.
2. Your clothes are pretty famous, even the President wears them, how did that come about?
Collezione C2’s design DNA is based on three tenets: Fashion, Arts and Nationalism….. and because we were able to create a very unique and iconic polo shirt with the Philippine map design back in 2008, a lot of Filipinos embraced the design concept and felt a deep sense of patriotism and love of country along with it. Being the President of the Philippines, President Noynoy shares the same deep love and patriotism for our nation just like our brand, and he decided to start wearing our shirts during less formal occasions. And of course, we are very happy, honored and grateful to him for doing so – he shares the same passion for love of country as we do.
3. How many retail stores do you have?
Collezione C2 currently has 25 free standing stores in the different malls nationwide.
4. How do you decide on a location? (mall, street level, etc)
As many retail experts would say: Location, Location, Location is the key to the success of a store….. Which I strongly believe in – unfortunately, there is so much competition in today’s retail landscape that a retailer will just have to make do with what is available and make certain compromises and adjustments in order to make the store location work – even if it is far from being in a prime location. We have a team in our organization that scouts the area of the given space at different times of the day and of the week, and we also study the different retail brands beside and across from the location being offered to us, we make our own internal calculations if the foot traffic and retail sales from the different stores around the site reconciles. And if the numbers look good and promising, then we sign on the dotted line with our retail partners, which are the mall operators. At the end of the day, we want to establish a ‘win-win’ formula between us retailers and the mall operators because at the end of the day, our success is their success as well, and vice versa.
5. At what point did the number of locations change how the business is run?
For us, after 12 to 15 branches, we had to seriously consider re-organizing the company and adding more departments to address the growth of the business. For one, we had to switch our POS system at the frontend and the software systems at the backend to accommodate a bigger volume of sales and inventory. Moreover, we also had to upgrade our people in terms of job experience, skill-set quality, and manpower requirements. We simply outgrew the system at our 12thto 15th branch.
6. What was the tipping point for you?
When you reach a certain sales volume, and your backend is not equipped to handle it, then disorganization and inefficiency will surface in your day-to-day operations and chaos will likely ensue – so before that even happens, you should have the foresight to have your backend ready to address the rise in demand of the business.
7. What does the ASEAN integration mean for your business?
2 things, opportunity and competition – you just have to step up to the plate and take your business to the next level or you will end up irrelevant if you do not innovate fast enough to meet the demands of a more intense competitive environment.
8. What are the benefits of operating in the Philippines? downsides?
For one, we are experiencing a growth in the economy and population…. there is a growing middle-class which means disposable income is on the rise, which gives retailers the opportunity to serve deeper pockets. The downside is that the barriers to entry for the retail sector is being lifted at an accelerated pace right now – there are just so many retail brands out there, whether global or regional, that have been aggressively coming here and expanding in our shores which make the local brands like us have to deal with a plethora of competition for both market share and retail space.
9. You are involved in restaurants now, how did that come about?
It’s always good to spread your investments or business interests in different sectors or industries, especially now that the competition is getting stiffer and stiffer in retail…… diversifying and spreading the risk is more like it.
9. What is different from the restaurant business to the retail business in the Philippines?
I believe it’s somewhat the same….. both businesses involve people management, products and services. But of course the differences will be in the creative concept and business model.
10. Do you think about locations differently for restaurants?
We go about it the same way, it’s just that the criteria that we set is different for clothing retail than for the restaurant business. If it meets certain criteria then we proceed with the build.
11. What is next for you in your retail/restaurant businesses?
For clothing retail, we are more discerning and selective with our expansion plans since we are at 25 stores already, for the restaurant business, we are much more aggressive because we have a few stores open and a couple in the pipeline and we feel that there is more room for growth in this sector.
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