By Alex Y. Vergara
Photographed by Camille Ante
As we barrel deeper into the 21st century, global retailing as we know it today is bound to change even further. Not a few high-end as well as fast-fashion brands love to talk about the extensive number of stores and points of sales they have. Montreal-based Aldo, a global leader in the design and production of quality, aspirational yet accessible footwear and accessories, is no different. Well, guess what. “That math is going away,” said Nathan Cray, general manager of Aldo Group International, which handles Asia-Pacific region, including India.
Hong Kong-based Cray, an American, recently visited Manila in time for the launch of Aldo’s spring-summer collection at the Bench Tower’s penthouse. Established in 1967 in Canada by Aldo Bensadoun, Aldo was envisioned by its founder as a “brand with a conscience, a brand that cares.” It was one of the first companies to allocate a percentage of its profits for AIDS research sometime in the mid 80s when doing so wasn’t considered “fashionable.”
Shaylla Lace-up Sandals
Kinza embroidered lace-up sneakers
Chearia clutch occasion bag
Stessy Pointy Toe pumps in blue/black and red/nubuck, Portland lipstick bag, Loverania clutch
Franssie beaded finge high heel sandals
Suyen Corp. chair and CEO Ben Chan (right) and Aldo group international general manager Nathan Cray
In less than 40 years, it has become a truly global brand present in more than 90 countries with 2,100 points of sales. In the Philippines, the brand is exclusively represented and distributed by Suyen Corp., the company behind Bench and a number of local and foreign fast-fashion and luxury brands.
“I think the growth in the Philippines as well as any major market is going to change, too,” said Cray. “It’s more about you having to be where the customer is, and customers in emerging economies like the Philippines are increasingly going online, increasingly venturing into different channels (omni-channel, as Aldo insiders describe). They want to be served and communicated with in different ways.”
In the last five years, growth for Aldo in the Asia-Pacific region reached 81 percent. Impressive, yes, but not as impressive compared to Europe (90 percent) and Middle East and Africa (87 percent). In short, there’s more room for growth. Overall, it expects its global business to double by 2021.
In the Philippines, Aldo debuted in 2007 with a single store at SM North Edsa. Within less than a decade, it now has 30 stores all over the country, including four locations devoted exclusively to accessories.
“In terms of growth in the Philippines, do I see Aldo opening another 30 stores within the same timeframe? I don’t know. But I do think growth is important in an important market like the Philippines,” said Cray.
How to achieve further growth in the Philippines, which has a young fashion-savvy and computer-literate market at home with Instagram and other forms of social media, is something Cray and his team have yet to put their finger on.
He’s aware that internet penetration is not as deep and as extensive in the Philippines compared to, say, North America. But he also acknowledges that in the age of fast fashion, there’s no stopping a determined shopper anywhere in the world from getting her hands on what she wants. Countless driven shoppers like her are more than just consumers for Aldo. They are, said Cray, “style-seekers.”
Besides, a country’s online infrastructure could drastically change within less than a year. The situation in the Philippines may not be as fast and as sophisticated yet as other countries, but sooner or later “it’s going to happen,” said Cray.
Having amassed a great deal of experience catering to online style-seekers from more advanced countries, Aldo, through its exclusive distributors, would be able to more or less figure out how to meet such a demand in the Philippines and other emerging markets when the time comes.Cray actually sees the Philippines’ underdeveloped online infrastructure as an advantage. How come?
“The advantage this country has is being able to learn from all the mistakes everybody else has made,” he said. “When I travel from North America to Asia, I’ve noticed that there are different things online retailers do that are unique to the types of market they cater to. People here are going to come up with ways to pick shoes.”
At the same time, Cray and his bosses at Aldo are not about to write off the importance of having a formidable brick-and-mortar chain of stores. There’s something magical about retail and the entire customer experience, he said, that enables brands like Aldo to further promote itself and increase brand equity and loyalty among style-seekers.
“Having a pleasant customer experience, sitting down, and waiting for somebody to bring you a new pair of shoes to fit, there’s something about that feeling that isn’t present online,” he said. “But there are people who are a lot younger than us. So it’s all part of a whole. We have to listen to our customers. Where would they want to be? Where would they want us to be?”
For the longest time, for instance, Aldo has been releasing four major collections throughout the year to correspond more or less with the changing seasons. It still does. Lately, however, it saw the need for “injections and updates” throughout the year. These are smaller releases, said Cray, launched almost monthly, which try to introduce and highlight certain styles and materials.
Although each season is still ruled by certain themes and inspirations, the brand now introduces sub stories in between these themes in the form of new styles or inspirations. It’s simply in keeping with its mandate as a fast-fashion shoe brand as well as the public’s demand for more, up-to-date styles to choose from. It’s far from regular because there are months when no new releases are done.
Jump Start for ladies, for instance, is composed of “take-charge” silhouettes in bold primary hues. It also offers slip-on sneakers, two-toned pumps, and open-toe, color-blocked booties that could take wearers from spring to summer.
The Bead in the Blues series celebrates denim and beaded details to come up with an eclectic take on a retro trend. Stilettos and platforms come either in classic neutrals and true blue denim with intricate details.
Aldo also pays homage to boho chic with warm neutrals in soft leathers and suede. For a more grown-up look, the Wonderland Wanderlust includes shoes in metallic materials as well as leather and Lucite.
Men also have a variety of options in updated and reworked Aldo classics inspired by such themes as East Coast, West Coast, and the Hamptons Elite—from sneakers, dress shoes, and weekend as well as lounge footwear designed to look cooler as the weather gets hotter.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean a broader collection per season for Aldo, but a fresher one,” Cray said.
For store locations and more info, go to aldoshoes.com/ph/en_PH, like facebook.com/AldoPhilippines, follow @ALDO_Shoes on Twitter and @aldo_shoes on Instagram