TODAY - 18 September 2015
TOM NG DISCUSSES THE JOYS AND PAINS OF GROWING THE HOMEGROWN SHOE LABEL PAZZION
SINGAPORE — When Tom Ng has an hour or two to spare, he buys a cup of coffee, sits down at a cafe, and stares at women’s shoes. And it is all for a legitimate reason.
Ng, the founder and director of homegrown shoe label Pazzion, has learnt how important it is to keep his business relevant, drawing inspiration and lessons from his observations of women in different countries — and the different types of footwear they prefer.
Ng even pays attention to the type of shoes women choose to wear in relation to different weather conditions, and on different types of pavements. And he has learnt some interesting things.
Singaporeans, for instance, prefer flats to heels, unlike women in Vietnam, who prefer the opposite. Compared with shoppers in Hong Kong, women here also tend to choose subtler designs.
“Consumers nowadays are quite selective. They know what they want,” the 45-year-old said, as he sipped coffee at a Starbucks close to the flagship PAZZION outlet at Wisma Atria. “They are quite particular, and it isn’t like the earlier days when everything was about dollars and cents. The affluent know what they want, and (they don’t mind) paying a little more for quality and comfort.”
Ng’s insistence on providing customers with a brand that they can relate to, both in terms of price and design, seems to have paid off.
In the 10 years since the brand was launched, PAZZION has opened eight stores in Singapore, and is franchised in India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and Mauritius, and will soon head to Myanmar, Cambodia and the Middle East.
But it has not always been smooth sailing for Ng, who said the hardest decision he has had to make was dropping his men’s line Barcode, after launching PAZZION’s first bricks-and-mortar store in 2005.
“We had just started venturing into ladies’ shoes and, given the much bigger market and our limited resources at the time, we had to make the business decision on whether to concentrate on ladies’ shoes or manage both, which we thought was going to be tough,” he said. “We decided to drop the men’s shoes and focus on ladies’ shoes and try to do one thing and achieve better results than to juggle the two.”
With the advent of online shopping, Singapore’s retail market is also much more competitive than it was a decade ago, and Ng and his team have to be sure to stay relevant to existing customers while appealing to new ones. Like most other business owners in Singapore, Ng also has to pay special attention to recruiting and retaining talent.
But after so many years of hard work, long hours, and sacrifices, Ng says he is proud of the brand he and his team have created. “It’s always good to see people wearing your shoes. Even more so when I’m in the shop and I see returning customers. It’s an endorsement that they like our shoes, they come back and buy their second, third or fourth pair. That makes me happy,” he said.
Being the boss of a shoe label also means Ng gets to custom-make shoes for the people most important to him — such as his two-year-old daughter.
“Sometimes when I am at the factory, I make shoes just for her,” Ng said with a smile. “She cares most about comfort. Anything she doesn’t feel comfortable in, she doesn’t wear. (And) if you (try to) force her to wear them, she runs away!”
If nothing else, it has taught him the value of comfortable shoes. “Comfort — especially for kids — is very important. They might not know what is fashionable or nice, but they definitely know what is comfortable and what is not!”
HON JING YI
PUBLISHED: 4:16 AM, SEPTEMBER 18, 2015
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