(Source: Manila Bulletin | September 17, 2017)
Rustan’s, an institution in Philippine luxury retail, kicked off its 65th year in business by inviting friends, loyal patrons, and in-house designers last Thursday evening to a cocktails-cum-fashion show at the company’s flagship store in Makati.
For this year’s anniversary, Rustan’s chose blue, the color of royalty, which also symbolizes sapphire, the gem associated with such a milestone. Head honcho Zenaida “Nedy” Tantoco, Rustan Commercial Corp. CEO and chair, led special guests in “activating” several projected sapphire images on the wall, which officially signaled the festivities’ opening.
“On a personal note, I feel overwhelmed because all our friends and patrons through the decades have been wishing us well,” said Tantoco. “The mood is so good. It’s so celebratory.”
As a retail leader in its category, Rustan’s looks back on the past, including its quiet beginnings when founders Bienvenido Tantoco, Sr. and the late Gliceria Rustia Tantoco opened a modest space on San Marcelino Street in Ermita, Manila in 1952. It was the start of what would become a family legacy among their children and grandchildren as well as a pioneer and institution in high-end retail.
“The family decided to have this celebration to acknowledge my parents, who started a great legacy, which they have left us. Without them, we wouldn’t be here celebrating. I’m really very grateful,” Tantoco added.
As for her family’s contributions to local retail, Tantoco is proud of the fact that Rustan’s has been the first to go into luxury retailing, which still exists and continues to grow to this day.
“We brought in the big brands that are available in Europe and America and made them available here for Filipinos to enjoy. We were the first ones to do that,” she said.
Tantoco accompanied her father Bienvenido Sr., 96, a former Philippine ambassador to the Holy See, in the ceremonial touching of the sapphire. Her mother Gliceria passed away sometime in the early ’90s.
The activity was followed by what was dubbed as the Blue Fashion Show, a fashion showcase of Rustan’s ready-to-wear “private labels” such as U by Ricardo Preto, Ricardo Preto, Jill, Kiddos, Lady Rustan, Rustan’s Jr. and Rustanette, and Crielda Lontok.
The occasion also coincided with the opening of an exhibit dedicated to the Tantoco couple, Bienvenido Sr. and Gliceria. The Many Facets of Glecy Tantoco: Retail Extraordinaire shows one of the founders’ story and the brand she has built from its inception up to the present time.
The exhibit on the fifth floor of Rustan’s Makati is open to the public. It will travel to other Rustan’s stores in the coming weeks.
At the same time, Rustan’s, which has grown and evolved to become Rustan Commercial Corp., Inc., has set its sights on the future by doing what it does best: enhancing the Filipino consumer’s lifestyle by giving him or her quality and world-class options.
“Apart from providing the consumer with wonderful choices, we have taken it upon ourselves to educate the market regarding lifestyle trends in fashion, home furnishing and appliances, gifts, beauty and skin care, and even food from all over the world,” said Anton Huang, president of Store Specialists, Inc. Group or SSI.
Over the years, Rustan Commercial Corp. grew to cater to the needs of a growing local clientele. The original store on San Marcelino Street is now all but a memory. In its place, apart from Rustan’s flagship store in Makati, are branches at Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Alabang Town Center, Gateway Mall at the Araneta Center, and Ayala Center Cebu.
In 1970, after securely positioning itself as the country’s premier source of lifestyle products, Rustan’s opened its chain of Rustan’s Supermarkets, which, to this day, has become a mecca of the best processed and fresh foods as well as wines and spirits from all over the world.
The company also diversified to add, so to speak, to its collection of prized jewels. They are SSI, without a doubt the largest and most diverse operator of high-end specialty brands in the country today; Royal Duty Free, the leading duty-free store in Subic Bay Freeport Zone; RMSI, a co-venture with UK brand Marks & Spencer; iconic coffee chain Starbucks; Rustan’s Supercenters, Inc., pioneer of the hypermarket format in the country, which resulted in the Shopwise chain of stores; and Sta. Elena Golf and Country Estate, the group’s venture into the field of leisure business.
Still, 65 years at the top of the competitive luxury retail business is no mean feat, more so today when anything and everything is readily available due to globalization. How does Rustan’s manage to do it?
“I believe we owe it to the fact that we always strive to make sure that we remain relevant,” said Huang, who grew up into the family business. “We try to make sure that what we know doesn’t become obsolete by being open to new ideas, innovations, changes, brands, and the like. Throughout the 65 years, we’ve always managed to create different retail concepts that were attuned to the times. And we will continue to do that as we go along.”
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