Parisian: A Cinderella Story in a Digital Age

Shoemart, Inc. for Parisian said.

The journey and evolution of Parisian in the Philippines, SM’s flagship shoes and bags brand can be likened to a Cinderella fairy tale. Over the years, Parisian has transformed from mere “functional”, “simple” and “affordable” to “haute” and “trendy” today to cater to a dynamic and stylish breed of shoppers.

In fact, Parisian was inspired by SM Founder and Chairman Henry Sy’s travels to Paris in the 1950s.  Learning from these trips, he wanted to bring new trends in shoe design and retailing to the Philippines. When Mr. Sy opened his first Shoemart store in downtown Manila in 1958, he wanted to share with Filipinos a little of the Parisian experience he had seen by making shopping for shoes exciting, convenient, and comfortable through air-conditioned shops with neatly-stacked shoes. Post-war Manila was the setting for this plan where Mr. Sy dreamed of selling shoes to every Filipino as a mark of his personal success.

Over 50 years later, Parisian is still making waves with good quality merchandise and elegant designs and is set to seize a whole new shopping landscape.

“We continue to put the same focus on the Parisian brand as Mr. Sy did. We refreshed the brand to cater to the current market and introduced new designs and marketing concepts. As the company grew evolving from a shoe store to a department store and then into a mall, SM expanded the Parisian line to serve different types of customers. We continue to innovate and revitalize the brand, bringing fashion trends from Paris to a new generation of shoppers,” Teresita Sy-Coson, SM Vice Chair said.

As a legacy brand and the only one that saw through SM’s transformation, Parisian is reinventing itself to provide the best value for shoppers by working hand in hand with its suppliers to understand customers’ needs.

“It is imperative for us to understand who our customers are especially if we want to sell a lot of shoes. For us, Parisian is not just an ordinary pair of shoes. Parisian represents a woman’s journey. Parisian will be there at every step—from entering High School to graduating from College to having her first prom, her first date, getting married, and being a mom,” Eugene Saw, Senior Vice President and Business Unit Head at 

In 2008, SM set up a separate merchandising business unit for The SM STORE in order to put a razor-sharp focus on growing its shoe business inside the department store. This move strengthened the brand’s merchandising and marketing teams and helped rationalize the Parisian brand.

It was also time for the brand to reintroduce itself with a debut on Philippine Fashion Week, the biggest fashion event in the Philippines in 2010. “People found it surprising that the items worn by models were actually Parisian,” Mr. Saw said.

This initial success paved the way for more runway shows and collaboration with renowned fashion designer Rajo Laurel for a special collection launched in 2011. The collection proved to be very successful and a new Rajo x Parisian collection was showcased in 2012. Celebrity endorsers soon followed to promote the brand like KC Concepcion and up-and-coming star Nadine Lustre.

Growth through bricks and clicks

The shoe display at Simply Shoes

Parisian is embracing the digital disruption and venturing “outside of the box” so to speak as the brand gears up to be visible online and even outside of the store and the malls.

In order to tap a younger customer base, Parisian entered the digital scene in 2011 as it engaged bloggers, mounted online promotions, and partnered with the entertainment portal Pep. ph to reach a broader audience.

Another dimension to the art of selling shoes was added as the SM STORE used technology to improve service. During the 1970s and 1980s, what was unique to SM were the hand signals introduced by Mr. Sy that allowed store clerks to communicate effectively to deliver customer orders for shoes. Mr. Saw said that last year, the SM STORE launched the “store tablet ordering system” wherein sales clerks will now be able to check items on stock when the customer inquires about a particular design.

Parisian is also very active on social media with digital assets of over 1 million page likes on Facebook and over 50,000 followers on Twitter to date. Online commerce is another key avenue to showcase SM’s latest footwear offerings anchored by Parisian. While Parisian shoes will be available online through the SM STORE website, there are still many opportunities to expand the brand nationwide through new stores.

Apart from clicks or online channels, Mr. Saw said SM Retail is focused on tapping the so-called brick and mortar business by opening new stores of “Simply Shoes”, a standalone store concept spanning 200 to 250 square meters that carries SM brands particularly shoes, bags, and luggage, especially in regional community centers such as in Tacloban and Kalibo in Aklan to name a few. With Parisian as the flagship brand, Simply Shoes also carries brands like Milanos, Solemate, Tough Kids, and Sugar Kids Shoes. Other well-known brands include World Balance, Vans, and Fila.

“There are a lot of untapped opportunities locally. In fact, when we opened our Tacloban store less than a year ago, one customer said, ‘Wow, my favorite brand of shoes is here. I don’t have to go to Cebu anymore to buy my favorite pair’,” Mr. Saw recalled.

Launched in 2014, Simply Shoes now has 19 stores and targets to reach 30 stores by yearend. With the retail business supported by strong consumer demand and SM’s focused expansion strategy, Parisian is poised to take its growth to a whole new level.

“Parisian is now one of the leading fashion brands in the Philippines, contributing billions of revenues to the department store. One day, it would be nice to see the brand available in the high streets of Bangkok, Shanghai, and the place where it all began, Paris,” Mr. Saw said.