Anton T. Huang has reason to feel good these days. SSI Group Inc., according to its report to stakeholders, posted an increase in net income profits in 2017 (19 percent), and the trend continued well into the first quarter of 2018.
SSI, or Stores Specialists Inc., marks its 30th anniversary this year, and kicks off the year-long celebration on June 5 in an event, “The Curated Life,” at Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.
The anniversary comes at a time Huang, SSI Group’s president, and his clan, the Tantocos, are tearing up every rule book of retail “to make sure that we remain relevant and we don’t turn obsolete,” as he put it in an interview with Inquirer Lifestyle last year, when SSI’s mother company, Rustan’s, celebrated its 65th year.
“There’s a lot of disruption going on around the world today, mainly brought about by technology. [There’s] new consumer behavior, not only shopping habits,” Huang acknowledged at the time.
While Huang said that “consumption is still very much at the Gen X level, and some Baby Boomers,” they’re also exploring all ways to “remain relevant to the millennials.”
Apart from its 638 specialty stores (as of December 2017), several of SSI’s brands now have e-commerce sites and one multibrand site, after launching a consolidated online selling platform in 2014.
“There are many other people that we can now [serve]… as we provide that service and convenience,” Huang had said. “More than 65 percent of our sales online are outside Metro Manila” and sales are “now equivalent to one store for us on a monthly basis for the brands we are selling online.”
SSI owns the franchises for about 107 global brands, from Zara to Hermès. It continues to evolve its brand offerings by acquiring or delisting brands, opening or shutting down stores, depending on performance.
Food and beverage
Case in point: while SSI traditionally dealt only with fashion retail, it has also gone into food and beverage, with the addition of TWG Tea and Salad Stop to its brand lineup.
In 2014, it brought in American home store, Pottery Barn, becoming the brand’s first franchisee in Southeast Asia.
SSI was built on the longstanding relationship of the Tantocos, starting with Huang’s grandmother and Rustan’s cofounder Gliceria Rustia Tantoco, with the Italian luxury houses, like Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci.
In 1988, SSI, which was formed as a subsidiary of Rustan’s, first brought in United Colors of Benetton, an Italian brand. This was followed two years later by Lacoste, Marks & Spencer and Salvatore Ferragamo, three of its most lasting and best-selling brands.
As the local demand for luxury labels grew, SSI opened its first boutiques for iconic brands such as Prada, Gucci, Tod’s, Burberry and Bottega Veneta at the new Greenbelt 4 mall in 2003.
It brought in Spanish fast-fashion giant Zara in 2004. In December 2009, it opened Hermès.
In 2014, the Tantocos announced SSI was going public. It became known as SSI Group Inc. after its initial public offering.
The good news of its increase in profits couldn’t have come at a better time, as the luxury retailer marks its milestone year. In its disclosure in April, Huang credited “resilient consumer demand” for the group’s strong performance.