Louie Gutierrez is one of the founders and the managing partner of Silverworks, an award-winning chain of stores that sell beautiful silver jewelry. He tells us more about how Silverworks has grown.
Q1: Can you tell us the story of how Silverworks began and how it changed from being a jewelry store inside a fashion store?
A1: I am a third generation jeweller. In the 1920s, my grandfather started the business as a traveling salesman selling jewelry. That business “heritage” continued in the 50s when my parents moved to a shophouse in Olongapo City to start Ocampo’s Fine Jewelry, an instant hit for the US Navy for gifts.
As a kid, me and 7 other siblings would spend our weekends helping out in the store – counting diamonds (and even losing some of them). From being exposed as a young age to the business, I pursued further studies on Gemology and Jewelry manufacturing at the Gemological Institute of America in California.
When I returned to the Philippines, I was invited by my cousins to set-up a fashion boutique, SARI-SARI and that where we piloted fashionable yet affordable jewelry pieces targeting a young, stylish crowd. The market loved the idea and then opened a new store after another and now, we currently have 65 stores nationwide!
Q2: Did you discover any surprising things about what customers like when you started selling silver instead of gold?
A2: In the 90s, gold was the only recognized form of jewelry. It was the only acceptable precious metal to most mainstream Pinoys. Silver was just viewed as an accessory for drug crazed hippies or used as an “anting anting” to ward off evil. It was also mostly sold in Baguio by artisans as a cottage industry and in souvenir shops.
We saw this as an opportunity to introduce an understated precious metal, Silver, equally superior but more affordable as a new form of jewelry.
Aside from cost, silver is hypoallergenic so customers are less prone to irritation. It’s a good choice for people with sensitive skin.
Silver is a more laid-back yet versatile accessory intended for many uses – can be worn during the day with jeans and even at night for formal events.
Q3: What is the brand essence of Silverworks, and how does it match what your customers want?
A3: Our main target are young, expressive and creative fashion mavericks hence SilverWorks is a form of metal that can be designed for every style and celebration.
Q4: What is the design philosophy of Silverworks? How does Silverworks make sure the jewelry it sells is made in a way that’s good for the environment and ethical?
A4: At SilverWorks, we believe jewelry that never goes out of style and this has become our belief in the last 33 years! We consider this a feat for a local brand that continues to be relevant when most of our peers have been folded up due to the influx of foreign players.
To celebrate our 33 years in the market, we recently we embarked on a Retro campaign, #GenSW featuring our statement pieces that we produced over the years. Alongside with an Integrated Marketing Campaign, we launched a roving gallery exhibit featuring our iconic billboards designs that remain edgy until now.
One thing that also sets up apart is that we consider the use of silver as sustainable material. We repurpose old items (by melting them) to redesign a new piece.
Q5: You have both regular stores and kiosks. When do you use each one, and which one seems to work better, and why?
A5: Retail is our staple, more than 80-90%. We have invested in improving our stores for a better shopping experience. One of the highlights of the retail renovation are our services, something that sets up apart. Customers can enjoy having pieces engraved, discuss specialized made-to-order pieces, and the heavily favored, piercing salon.
An extension of the retail stores are our kiosks that are strategically located to cater to impulse buyers. We also do regular pop-ups on special occasions sales and other mall-thematic activations. The same concept is extended in schools and corporate events to reach an even wider audience.
Q6: Are there any plans to start selling jewelry online, not just in physical stores? If so, how will you keep the Silverworks feeling when it’s online?
A6: Prior to the pandemic, we were already strong in online. We were pioneer sellers in marketplaces such as Lazada and Shopee. So when pandemic set it in, we were able to move operations seamlessly to online (including equipping our Retail Staff with Digital Selling) when our physical stores closed temporarily.
This strategic move helped everyone in the company as we didn’t have to close the stores and created opportunities for a new revenue stream to pay our employees.
Taking a cue from what was happening in the US before the pandemic, brick-and-mortar stores that did not embrace digital technologies disappeared. More than ever, the seamless integration of online and physical retail is the key to any business to last.
Q7: How do you use what customers say and their stories to help Silverworks grow and get better?
A7: Both OFFLINE and ONLINE are the heart of the brand. Their interests are always considered whenever we come up with new, exciting pieces, and even bringing back special collections that they’ve once worn.
As a local brand that ‘s been in the market for 3 decades now, we’ve seen these customers grow and celebrated important milestones with us – whether personal (self gifting) or with someone (looking for gifts).
I am always in awe when I meet a new acquaintance and I tell them I run Silverworks. They would tell me their story of how SW became a meaningful part of their lives – first jewelry purchase for themselves or as a gift to their first crush.
We can proudly say that we have focused on jewelry not just as a product but an emotional purchase where each piece bought tells a story. Which is worth talking about over and over again.
Josiah Go is chair and chief innovation strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc. The 8th Entrep Summit is scheduled on Jan. 30, 2024. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.