By Dom Galeon
Photos by Noel Pabalate
To reach fifty years is a milestone. Ten years more than that is a breakthrough. For SM, 60 years of continued service deserves no less than a glamorous, year-long celebration, which opened with a colorful evening program last Monday at the atrium of the Mall of Asia.
It was difficult to keep track of the dozens of guests, from friends of SM to representatives of the brands that they work with, who graced the momentous occasion. They were all there to celebrate six decades of retail and merchandising industry leadership, which all started in 1958 when SM founder Henry Sy, Sr. opened the first Shoemart store in downtown Manila. Now, 60 years later, SM has almost a thousand retail outlets and 70 malls in the country, with seven malls in China—a testament to SM’s success.
“Honestly, it hasn’t been easy, but it’s very fulfilling,” Hans Sy, former president and now executive committee chairman of SM Prime Holdings, told the Manila Bulletin. “There are lots of details involved in doing our day-to-day job. We’re very hands on in everything we do. There’s a lot of work. But seeing the outcome, we’re very happy. I’m happy and proud, seeing the fruit of all that we’ve done.”
“A lot of things have evolved,” Hans added. “It used to be just purely good credit and hard work. But now it’s no longer just those. You need to be very tech savvy. That’s why there’s really a lot of detail to it.”
SM Supermalls senior vice president Steven Tan couldn’t help but agree. “SM has always been evolving, from a simple shoe store to what you see where we are right now,” he said in an interview. “Even the malls have been evolving year after year. A lot of global brands are coming in, and the local brands are also upping how they do retail by infusing a lot of these experiential concepts in their stores.”
“We are doing pretty well,” Steven added. “It’s because the owners, the Sy family, have always been very up for the challenge, they always want us to improve. It’s not only just for ourselves; it’s also for the Filipino people, because then they have a nicer place to shop, they have a nicer place to go to. It also it also makes them feel good. So, if you keep on improving, whether it’s for your own business or for the country, it’s good for everyone.”
SM has grown by leaps and bounds in the past 60 years, and it’s a growth that’s bound to continue, perhaps, for another six decades, even more. In the mean time, for the near future, SM wants to focus on paying it forward. Hans explained. “It’s really giving back to the public, really increasing the family, not just for our employees, but reaching out to the public as part of the SM family,” he said. It’s one way of staying true to what has been SM’s mantra since the late 1980s—We’ve got it all for you! “That really became our identity,” Hans said.
And where will this bring SM in the years to come? “At least for the next five years you will see a lot of expansion from us. You’ll also see a lot of changes and a lot of global brands coming in,” he explained, with the opening of two new malls, SM City Legazpi and SM City Ormoc, this year. Steven also hinted at a new partnership with a huge brand coming in the next two weeks.
At the root of it all, is a value that might sound rather cliché. It’s all about understanding the Filipino customer, Steven explained. “Understand and listen to them. That’s the only secret that I can tell you. If you don’t listen to your customers, they’ll go somewhere else.”
“We are very lucky that the Filipino people embrace us as well,” he added. “We’re so happy and we’re so glad, because without the Filipino people supporting us, I don’t think we’ll be where we are right now.”