A constant move towards
the silver lining
Louie Gutierrez , is a third-generation jeweler from the business which was started by his grandfather Santiago Lagman Ocampo in 1926 .
In the 1950 ’ s , his parents Victor and Amada Gutierrez continued the legacy and set up their branch of Ocampo ’ s Department Store in Olongapo and Bataan . Four decades after , after taking up Gemology and Jewelry Manufacturing in the Gemological Institute of America in California , Louie went back to the Philippines to start Silverworks . From a kiosk in Glorietta , they have grown to 73 company-owned -outlets in major malls after 30 years .
He shares with the Philippine Retailing Magazine his journey including challenges and successes and journey he plans to forge ahead .
What would you say is the biggest challenge for Silverworks ? And how are you able to overcome this ?
In a country where gold was the only recognized form of jewelry , it took a lot of marketing effort and education to make sterling silver an acceptable alternative precious metal for the mainstream Pinoy . The early ‘ 90s was the best time to introduce silver — an understated creative and yet affordable new form of jewelry . It is very Pinoy that when something becomes successful there will be copycats all over . What proved to be a threat has become an opportunity for Silverworks to continuously innovate and reinvent itself to always be ahead of the competitors .
What are lessons you learned from your parents that helped you in life in general or in business ?
My parents were great storytellers and they always made sure they told us over and over again how our lolo started his business and how passionate they were that is why they have reached their success . I am also doing this for my kids so they will appreciate value of hard work on all the things that they do .
Aside from physical stores , how do you manage to grow ?
Aside from the 73 physical stores in most major malls , Silverworks is also represented in most big online marketplaces . I have also revamped my e-commerce site to make it easier to navigate .
You have an active presence online , with your website and presence in marketplaces , how does this help you , especially during this time ?
The past few years I have been constantly keeping abreast of horror stories of big brands in US retail going bankrupt with fewer and fewer people going to the malls . Although it seemed unimaginable to happen here in the Philippines because of the Pinoy ’ s undying love for the malls , I wanted to make sure that I will be ready if and when that time comes . Furthermore , I want Silverworks to be visible to my digital-savvy target market . The pivot to online has been accelerated during this pandemic and I am happy that Silverworks has easily moved forward .
We know how the pandemic has challenged the retail industry , how has it affected your company and how are you adapting to these challenges ?
Everyone has been caught off guard with the COVID 19 pandemic . All plans have been canceled or put on hold and we try to make the best given the day to day opportunities . However , the foremost concern is how to keep most of my 500 employees and let them some form of income to support their families . Since there is less mall activity , I have also turned into urban farming to give jobs to many of my displaced workers who are interested in and passionate about waste management and food sustainability .
What are you looking for in 2021 , in terms of Silverworks moving forward ?
It is such a memorable and humbling year for the company but as long as we have a passionate team there will always be plenty of opportunities that will come along . I am also happy that most of the malls I have worked with have been supportive to make sure that tenants and lessors are in this together . We need each other more than ever to make sure that our businesses survive until we will be back in normal times .
What value do find in becoming a PRA member ?
It is during this COVID crisis that I was able to connect with many PRA members . The Viber group has been a valuable source of information about business concerns . Personally , it has been my outlet to express support or dissatisfaction that affect tenant- mall lessors ’ relations . I realize that by expressing myself freely in our group , win-win solutions have been achieved .
I have also gained a lot of friends from the industry who have messaged me to share their opinions . It is through this healthy collaboration of actions and ideas that I have realized how important it is to be part of PRA .
Retail Spotlight aims to share the success stories and insights of PRA members . Share you story with us ! If you have an inspiring story on how you started your business to serve as an inspiration to the retailing community , we ' d love to publish them on the Philippine Retailing Magazine . Email your pitch at communications @ philretailers . com and let ' s share beautiful , inspiring stories together .