Charles & Keith



Charles & Keith is a Singapore brand known for its women’s footwear and accessories. Established in 1996 by brothers Charles and Keith Wong, Charles & Keith started out as a shoe store in Amara Shopping Centre. By 2013, the company had grown into an international chain with close to 400 outlets. The company has received several awards including the Singapore Retailers Association’s Excellent Service Award 2002 and the Enterprise Award at the Singapore Business Awards 2008.

Background
In 1990, Charles 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, the two brothers decided to open their own shoe store in Amara Shopping Centre and launched their own label because they wanted to adopt a new business model in footwear retail. They had observed that the traditional model of merely selling shoes purchased from wholesale suppliers was unsustainable as it was unable to provide customers with a variety of options and design.1

As a result, the brothers opted to design their own shoes, and selling them at affordable prices. Keith was responsible for designing the shoes while Charles managed sales. The brothers also made the business cost-efficient by buying directly from manufacturers instead of wholesalers.2 To retain the exclusivity of their products, the brothers ensured that these manufacturers would not produce and sell their shoes to other retailers.3 Further, they adopted a more trendy marketing strategy such as by using European models for the product photoshoots and advertising through social media website Facebook.4 These strategies proved to be a success. By 2001, Charles & Keith had grown to comprise 14 outlets locally, which accounted for more than S$10 million in sales.5 As at 2016, there are 29 Charles & Keith outlets in Singapore, located in major shopping centres and suburban malls.6

Expansion
Seeing the potential for the brand to do well in global markets, Charles & Keith began expanding its business overseas in 2000.7 Initially, the company started in markets within Southeast Asia.8 From 2004, it began to venture into the Middle East, beginning with Dubai and followed by Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.9 By 2005, Charles & Keith had expanded into Egypt and Turkey.10 Besides the Middle East, the company also boasted outlets in other countries like Australia, Japan, China and Panama.11 In 2013, it had close to 400 outlets overseas.12

In addition to setting up outlets, Charles & Keith made a series of expansion in other aspects of its business. In 2004, it became the first local retail company to launch an e-commerce site. This allowed the company to sell its products to countries where it did not have retail presence.13 A year later, it introduced the Pedro line of men’s footwear. In 2007, Charles & Keith expanded their product range to include accessories such as sunglasses and belts. To penetrate the higher-end market, the company launched the Signature Label, which retailed more expensive and higher-quality shoes.14

Charles & Keith has also looked to expanding its overseas network in Latin America and China.15 To do so, the company sought out new partners – in Japan, for instance, Charles & Keith teamed up with Onward Holdings to bring the brand into the local market. For the Saudi Arabian and Jordanian markets, it partnered Alhokair Fashion Retail, which imports international brands to those markets. Charles & Keith recently entered into a partnership with L Capital Asia, the private-equity arm of luxury group LVMH, when the latter acquired a 20-percent stake in Charles & Keith for more than S$30 million in 2010.16

Charles & Keith relies on its ability to control its supply chain to ensure that their manufacturers would continue to produce shoes exclusively for the company.17 Further, it also aims to maintain the standard of its designers, making sure they are well trained and well informed of consumers’ changing demands and tastes. The company spends as much as three percent of its annual revenue in training its designers, who are also sent overseas to conduct market research.18

Awards
Owing to its entrepreneurial spirit, the company has bagged a number of awards over the years including the Singapore Retailers Association’s Excellent Service Award in 200219 and the Enterprise Award at the 2008 Singapore Business Awards.20 Individually, founder Charles has also been recognised with numerous honours including the ASEAN Youth Award 2005 by the National Youth Council;21 Entrepreneur of the Year 2008 by the Rotary Club and the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises;22 Entrepreneurship Award 2012 by the Spirit of Enterprise;23 and the Young Achiever Award 2013 by the Business China.24

Timeline
1996: The first Charles & Keith shoe store is opened at Amara Shopping Centre.
2000: The company ventures overseas for the first time, setting up outlets in Southeast Asia.
2002: Awarded the Excellence Service Award by the Singapore Retailers Association.
2004: The company opens its first Middle East store in Dubai.
2005: Men’s footwear brand Pedro is launched.
2007: The company diversifies its business with the introduction of an accessories collection and the up-market Charles & Keith Signature Label.
2008: Awarded the Enterprise of the Year Award.
2010: The company sold 20-percent stake to L Capital Asia, the private equity arm of luxury group LVMH.



Author

Nuradilah Ramlan 



References
1. Aggarwal, N. (2008, October 22). The world is at his feet. The Straits Times, p. 141. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, J. (2009, November 5). The world at their feet. Forbes Asia. Retrieved from EBSCOHost via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
2. Aggarwal, N. (2008, October 22). The world is at his feet. The Straits Times, p. 141. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, J. (2009, November 5). The world at their feet. Forbes Asia. Retrieved from EBSCOHost
via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
3. Boon, R. (2013, July 23). Full control ensures shoemaker never misses a step. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/ 
4. Tan, J. (2009, November 5). The world at their feet. Forbes Asia. Retrieved from EBSCOHost via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
5. Seah, L. (2002, August 22). Get the shoe on the road. aThe Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Charles & Keith. (2016). Store locator – Singapore. Retrieved 2016, April 14 from Charles & Keith website at: http://www.charleskeith.com/sg/storelocator/index/index/
7. Aggarwal, N. (2008, October 22). The world is at his feet. The Straits Times, p. 141. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Boon, R. (2013, July 23). Full control ensures shoemaker never misses a step. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
8. Goh, S. (2004, July 15). Local shoe chain eyes Mid-East. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Boon, R. (2013, July 23). Full control ensures shoemaker never misses a step. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
9. Goh, S. (2004, July 15). Local shoe chain eyes Mid-East. The Straits Times, p. 4; Li, X. (2005, June 18). S’pore foray to gain foothold in Egypt. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Boon, R. (2013, July 23). Full control ensures shoemaker never misses a step. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva
via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
10. Seah, L. (2002, August 22). Get the shoe on the road. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
11. Charles & Keith. (2016). Store locator. Retrieved 2016, April 14 from Charles & Keith website at: http://www.charleskeith.com/sg/storelocator/index/index/; Boon, R. (2013, July 23). Full control ensures shoemaker never misses a step. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
12. Boon, R. (2013, July 23). Full control ensures shoemaker never misses a step. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
13. Men’s Folio. (2014, July 26). In conversation: Charles & Keith CEO Charles Wong. Retrieved 2016, April 19 from Men’s Folio website at: http://www.mens-folio.com/14768/in-conversation-charles-keith-ceo-charles-wong-2/
14. Aggarwal, N. (2008, October 22). The world is at his feet. The Straits Times, p. 141. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Boon, R. (2013, July 23). Full control ensures shoemaker never misses a step. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Men’s Folio. (2014, July 26). In conversation: Charles & Keith CEO Charles Wong. Retrieved 2016, April 19 from Men’s Folio website: http://www.mens-folio.com/14768/in-conversation-charles-keith-ceo-charles-wong-2/
16. Boon, R. (2013, July 23). Full control ensures shoemaker never misses a step. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
17. Boon, R. (2013, July 23). Full control ensures shoemaker never misses a step. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva
via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
18. Tan, J. (2009, November 5). The world at their feet. Forbes Asia. Retrieved from EBSCOHost via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
19. Excellent Service Award 2002. (2002, December 5). Today, p. 54. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Singapore Press Holdings. (n.d.). Winners (2008). Retrieved 2016, July 5 from Singapore Business Awards website: http://www.sbawards.com.sg/awards_winners_2008.html
21. Charles & Keith MD bags ASEAN Youth Award. (2005, September 2). Today, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Aggarwal, N. (2008, October 22). Honouring top entrepreneurs. The Straits Times, p. 138. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Spirit of Enterprise. (n.d.). SOE Entrepreneurship Award 2012. Retrieved 2016, July 5 from Spirit of Enterprise website: http://soe.org.sg/2012-awards-ceremony/soe-entrepreneurship-award-2012/
24. Business China. (2013). 2013 Business China Young Achiever Award Recipient – Charles Wong. Retrieved 2016, April 19 from Business China website: http://www.businesschina.org.sg/bcawards/assets/Uploads/2013-Business-China-Young-Achiever-Award-Recipient.pdf



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 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.

 

Subject
Organisations>>Companies
Commerce and Industry>>Industries
Shoe stores--Singapore
Footwear industry--Singapore
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Manufacturing industries
Trade and industry
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Services>>Retail and wholesale
Business enterprises