Latest Stories

35 years, 268 stores, 13 brands–how an ’80s shoe company became the only one of its kind left standing

‘We continue to sharpen our saw. We are, after all, against behemoths,’ says Arturo Alli Jr., COO of Celine Marketing Corp.


“WE’RE creating products that will allow us to compete in affordable luxury, apart from our value pricing,” says Alli. Bag and shoes from CMG

In retail, if you don’t adapt, you lose. You fail to evolve, and you’re booted out of the game for good.

It seems adapting and evolving are two things Celine Marketing Group has had no trouble doing. The 35-year-old shoe company behind such labels as CLN (formerly known as Celine), CMG and Traffic, is practically the only one left standing among the key players in local shoe retail from the 1980s and ’90s.

While its contemporaries’ presence in major malls has tapered significantly in the last decade, CMG has sprouted to 268 stores nationwide, with 66 boutiques for its flagship brand, CLN, alone—all company-owned. It has weathered competition, even from global brands that continue to pose a challenge to homegrown labels.

“I believe only those who continue to understand who their consumers are and offer differentiated products not only survive but profitably compete,” says Arturo Alli Jr., chief operations officer of Celine Marketing Corp. He notes that nearly all of the company’s competitors in the early ’80s are all but gone. “At their height, they each had about 60 stores; now they’re mostly out of SM.”

Success story

From a single brand, CMG now has over 13 labels under its portfolio, and it’s adding more as it becomes aggressive in its move to license, distribute, acquire and merge with other brands. Apart from shoes, the multi-brand shop’s offerings now include accessories and apparel.

CORK-HEELED wedge sandals and tote, both CMG. At right, stacked heel sandals

Recently, it acquired an 80-percent stake in the Singapore-based Chocolate Schubar brand, originally brought in by the group of Ruby Gan. It also distributes Staccato, and owns Figlia, Figliarina, SO! Fab, Shubizz, as well as the shoe license for Barbie.

For the first time, it also participated in the recent Singapore trade show, Blueprint, to attract international buyers.

The local shoe industry might have suffered tremendously from global competition in recent years. But “Filipinos still buy Filipino,” Alli believes. “Bench would be one of your success stories,” he adds, referring to the local apparel behemoth, which has expanded globally with stores overseas.

Filipino brands have an opportunity to go international, he says. At the Blueprint regional trade show, Alli reports they received inquiries from the American boutique chain Anthropologie, as well as distributors from the Middle East and Indonesia.


FROM A SHOE store, CMG now has CLN apparel and accessories

Like its contemporaries, CMG began as a one-store setup in 1978. It was founded by a couple named Ben and Vicky Chan (the CMG chair is a namesake of the Bench founder, no relation). As the local shoe industry succumbed to the high cost of manufacturing and the competition posed by cheap China imports, the couple rode the tide and adapted to the challenges. Even as the shoes they sell are now also sourced from China and Malaysia, a good portion of their merchandise are still proudly Marikina-made.

“It’s our way of giving back to the community,” Alli said. “It’s also our way of differentiating our product offering.”

CMG never owned factories, but it has longtime relationships with local shoemakers, where it continues to subcontract made-to-order styles. “And even as we want to increase Philippine-made, very few now make shoes here.”

Alli likens CMG’s approach to Mercedes-Benz as, he says, the company revises its “brand architecture.” “Mercedes-Benz doesn’t differentiate. It targets different strata. There’s B Class for entry-level, then C, E, S Classes, etc. That’s what we’re doing; we’re stretching the brand equity. We’re not lowering prices but we’re creating products that will allow us to compete in affordable luxury, apart from our value pricing.”

Alongside the local- and China-made footwear offerings, the Chan couple is bringing in Italian-made shoes at the P8,000 to P12,000 range, categorized as affordable luxury.

“There will always be a sector that will go for value pricing. Then there will always be those who will go for a million-peso Hermès bag.”

Alli adds, “Your brands can’t be everything to everybody, but it must be everything to the target market.” Which means, the company takes to heart what consumers think of each of their brands. “The unvarnished truth, good or bad.”

Beyond product

Italian-made jeweled slipper from CMG

Succeeding in retail is beyond product, says Alli, who, retiring after four decades in the fast-moving consumer-goods industry—at Procter& Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson—joined CMG just a year ago.

“Fashion isn’t difficult to understand because I am a consumer,” he adds.

“What CMG has learned for over 30 years is that we’re good at service. Take out the label and you can’t distinguish it from other brands. We source from the same suppliers. But customers want to be attended to properly. So we continue to sharpen our saw. We are, after all, against behemoths.”

CMG remains a privately owned company with some 600 employees. The next-generation owners are now in training to take on more responsibilities in the firm. One son, for instance, started and runs Traffic, an affordable line of fashionable and well-made men’s shoes.

CMG embroidered suede shoe

Alli says CMG will continue to undergo changes in the coming months. New labels are being brought in, while Celine will make its complete transition to CLN, and will involve more than just a name change.

“We respect competition,” says the COO, “but we’re not intimidated by it.”

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Celine Marketing Group , footwear , Lifestyle , Shoes

  • tanga_hanga_ni_abnoy

    may otto at grosby pa naman..may Pike, just do it din

  • Alfie Anido

    ganda kaya Grosby nuon, before pa ito ng KAYPEE FUTURA. suot ni Michael Hackett Grosby

  • Iggy Ramirez

    The problem with out products is that they have been making the same model ever since. There is virtually a lack of research and improvement. Some designs are so dull, ugly, and uncomfortable. I mean, when you can buy a shoe that feels like you’re being lifted, why would you wanna buy a shoe that promises torture at every step.

    • http://www.pulisnapogi.blogspot.com/ Pulis Na Pogi

      crab generalization. so please explain how this company survived and expanded in 35 years?

      • Iggy Ramirez

        There’s that word my friend: survived. Think about it.

      • http://www.pulisnapogi.blogspot.com/ Pulis Na Pogi

        what is there to think about?

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  6. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  7. Summer treat for your aspiring astronomers
  8. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  9. This is not just a farm
  10. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week?
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  4. France makes work beyond 6 p.m. illegal
  5. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  6. South Koreans crave Asia’s smelliest fish
  7. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  8. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  9. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Ex-Givenchy model fights for ‘Yolanda’ survivors


  • Firetruck rams California eatery; 15 injured
  • 9 confirmed dead after ferry sinks off South Korean coast
  • Aquino to public: Learn to sacrifice
  • 20 killed as Islamic extremists rampage in Nigeria
  • Drug firm Novartis to help Leyte firefighter
  • Sports

  • Walker leads Bobcats over Bulls in OT, 91-86
  • Man City slips further out of title contention
  • Federer would skip tennis to be with wife, newborn
  • Manny Pacquiao in PBA? If so, he’ll wear No. 17
  • PSC sets Blu Girls US training
  • Lifestyle

  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  • Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  • Entertainment

  • American rapper cuts own penis, jumps off building
  • Jay Z to bring Made in America music fest to LA
  • Why Lucky has not bought an engagement ring for Angel
  • Derek more private with new girlfriend
  • ‘Community’ star happy with return of show’s creator
  • Business

  • Fired Yahoo exec gets $58M for 15 months of work
  • PH presses bid to keep rice import controls
  • PSEi continues to gain
  • Number of retrenched workers rose by 42% in ’13
  • PH seen to sustain rise in FDIs
  • Technology

  • DOF: Tagaytay, QC best at handling funds
  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Tech company: Change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  • Filling the digital talent gap
  • SSS to shut down website for Holy Week
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Syria most dangerous country for journalists, PH 3rd—watchdog
  • Japan says visa-free entry still a plan
  • First Fil-Am elected to Sierra Madre, Calif. city council
  • UC Irvine cultural night to dramatize clash of values in immigrant family
  • Filipino sweets and info served at UC Berkeley Spring Fest