Charles & Keith
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Charles & Keith is a popular Singapore brand known for women’s footwear and accessories. Established in 1996 by brothers Charles and Keith Wong, it started out as a simple shoe store at Amara Hotel. Today, Charles & Keith is an international chain with over 170 franchises worldwide and is also a parent company for the luxury brand Pedro. The company has received several awards, including the Excellent Service Award in 2002 and The Enterprise Award at the Singapore Business Awards 2008.
At a young age, Charles Wong and his younger brother Keith learned the ropes of managing a shoe business by helping their parents at their shoe store in Ang Mo Kio. In 1996, at the age of 22, Charles opened his own shoe store at the Amara Hotel arcade in the financial district. Keith joined the business in 1998. At the time, it was a small business selling women’s shoes made in China and Malaysia.
From customer feedback, Charles observed that merely selling shoes bought from wholesale suppliers did not provide a variety of designs and choices to customers. Realising that they needed to have an edge over their competitors, the brothers began designing their own shoes by the end of 1997. Keith was in charge of designing the shoes while Charles managed sales. The brothers made the business cost efficient by buying materials directly from China instead of wholesalers in Singapore. The strategy proved to be successful, and Charles & Keith went on to establish itself with 12 outlets in major shopping centres and suburban malls in Singapore.
Seeing the potential for the brand to do well in global markets, Charles & Keith began expanding its business overseas in 2000. The uniqueness of its in-house designs and its affordable prices were important factors in the brand’s appeal locally and internationally. To date, Charles & Keith owns more than 170 outlets in 22 countries including Japan, Cyprus, Brunei and Indonesia.
In 2004, Charles & Keith ventured into the Gulf States of the Middle East, beginning with Dubai and followed by Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia. It has since opened more outlets in Egypt and Turkey, bringing the total number to 12 outlets in the Middle East. In the same year, Charles & Keith became the first retail company to launch an online store in Singapore, charleskeith.com. In 2005, Charles & Keith introduced the Pedro line of men’s footwear.
In 2007, both Charles & Keith and Pedro expanded their range of products to include women’s and men’s accessories such as bags, belts, ties and sunglasses. Pedro soon became a luxury brand for both men's and women’s collections, together with the introduction of the Charles & Keith Signature Label, an extension line offering a slightly higher price range that caters to more refined clientele.
Currently, Charles & Keith continues to broaden its overseas network. The company is looking to open another 500 stores over the next 5 years. To cater to the changing demands and tastes of its customers, the corporation has an inhouse team of 70 designers led by Keith. These designers come up with new designs every month and make regular trips to fashion capitals such as Milan and Paris to attend fashion shows and study upcoming trends and designs. Charles & Keith and Pedro have become not only a household brand in Singapore, but also continue to make inroads in retail markets overseas with their innovative designs, sophisticated branding and advertising as well as affordable prices.
Owing to its entrepreneurial spirit, the corporation has bagged a number of awards including the Excellence Service Award 2002 and the 2009 Enterprise of the Year Award by the Singapore Business Awards. Founder and managing director Charles Wong was presented with the Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the National Youth Council and by the Rotary-ASME Award in 2008.
1996 : Charles & Keith is established at Amara Hotel.
1997 : Charles & Keith begins designing its own shoes.
2000 : The company ventures overseas for the first time.
2002 : A second franchise store opens in Australia.
2003 : A franchise opens in Brunei.
2004 : The company opens its first Middle East store in Dubai. Other stores open in Greece, Turkey and New Zealand. An online store, charleskeith.com, is launched, as well as a retail outlet at Changi Airport, the first ladies’ footwear retailer at the location. A handbag collection is introduced.
2005 : A Charles & Keith store opens in Egypt, bringing the total number of stores in the Middle East to 12 outlets. The company launches an extension line for men’s footwear, Pedro.
2006 : Pedro opens in Indonesia and the Philippines. Franchises are extended to Pakistan, Thailand and East Malaysia.
2007 : The company launches the Charles & Keith and Pedro accessories collections, and the Charles & Keith Signature Label. The business expands into Iran, Turkey, Vietnam and Jordan.
2008 : Pedro opens stores in West Malaysia and at the Singapore Changi Airport.
Goh, S. (2004, July 15). Local shoe chain eyes Mid-East. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 16, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Li, X. (2005, June 18). S’pore foray to gain foothold in Egypt. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 16, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Seah, L. (2002, August 22). Get the shoe on the road. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 16, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Singapore Press Holdings. (2009). The 24th Singapore Business Awards honour outstanding Singapore business leaders. Retrieved May 20, 2010, from http://sph.com.sg/article.display.php?id=832
SPRING Singapore. (2009). Charles and Keith International Pte Ltd. Retrieved May 20, 2010, from http://www.spring.gov.sg/Resources/CD/Pages/charles-keith-international-pte-ltd.aspx
Tan, J. (2009, November 5). The world at their feet. Forbes Asia. Retrieved May 20, 20210, from EBSCOHost database.
Tay, S. C (2004, September 16). Best foot forward. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 16, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
Yen, F. (2004, July 1). New youth award for ex-winners. The Straits Times. Retrieved February 16, 2011, from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
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