Park Avenue in the 1950s

Not everyone knows it—but the late Henry Sy, affectionately called “Tatang” by those who knew and loved him, was not an instant success.

After the Second World War destroyed and burned down his father’s sari-sari stores, Tatang found himself without a business, and without a clue about how to start again.

As a result of widespread bombing and street fighting during the final months of the War, Manila was among the most destroyed cities in the world. Amid his ravaged surroundings, Tatang observed how the hardships of the previous years had taken their toll on Filipinos. Like Tatang himself, many of them lost everything, down to their shoes. They had resorted to walking around barefoot.

Tatang recognized that shoes were an important symbol of a person’s dignity—the dignity millions had lost during the war. Amid this loss, and in the wake of his own personal setbacks, Tatang found for himself a new dream: shoes for every Filipino. He put up a small store called Plaza Shoe Store in 1948 and later Park Avenue in the 1950s that began selling shoes at affordable prices to Filipinos who, like him, were eager to start their lives again.

Soon enough, his store achieved modest success, enough for him to need larger and more steady sources for shoes. During this period, he decided to pay a visit to the United States, not just to look for suppliers, but also to closely study and understand the world of retail and marketing in New York, Boston and other European markets. He visited large department stores and trade fairs, eager to learn more. This was also because he harbored a larger vision of establishing not just one store, but a whole chain of them.

Mr. Sy in Boston in the mid-1950s which was regarded as the shoe capital of America during that period.
A visit to a shoe store in the US in the 1950s

In 1958, on Avenida Rizal, he opened a new shoe store under a new name: Shoemart. It would be followed by another on Carriedo Street—and then another, and another. In the late 70s, as his stores grew in size and scale, his shoe store would become a department store, just like those he had seen in America. Tatang renamed his stores from Shoemart to SM. SM’s wide and varied offerings were famously captured in the tagline “We’ve Got it All!” It is a line that survives to this day.

As for Tatang’s business, it has more than survived. It has flourished for over six decades, with over 3,300 retail stores and outlets all over the country, today serving tens of millions of Filipinos and global customers.

The SM Group continues to be inspired by the needs and the dreams of the many generations of stakeholders it serves, not just through malls and stores, but through residential communities, financial institutions, smart and sustainable developments.

Mr. Sy at a footwear exposition in Jinjiang in 1999

Tatang’s original vision, itself inspired by the needs of his fellow Filipinos, lives on in everything SM creates and nourishes. On this Super Month of October, Tatang’s birth month, it is one of the things we celebrate at SM: the value of nurturing a vision.

About SM Super Month

The SM Super Month campaign is SM’s biggest celebration across its well-loved retail brands, SM Supermalls, SM Store and SM Markets for the whole month of October.

It is a time when SM honors its roots by sharing the legacy of its founder, Henry “Tatang” Sy, the visionary behind one of country’s biggest conglomerates today, during his birth month.

SM finds more reasons to celebrate with those who matter most– family and friends– with fantastic offers, amazing sales, and exciting events across its retail presence nationwide starting October 2022. Find your reason to celebrate this #smsupermonth.