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Smooth Sailing

New management at clothing business Regatta works out a smooth transition that now helps propel the reinvigorated brand towards steady growth
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Regatta, a clothing line that started out in 1989 as a pet project of two leading Manila socialites, Mia Borromeo and Lizzie Zobel, is one of the few select homegrown labels that have withstood the changing tides of Filipino fashion. The wide selection of high-end casual resort wear for men, women, and children was introduced to the market when the first Regatta store opened at Greenbelt 1 in Makati (now a city) that same year, then quickly become one of the most popular clothing brands in its class.

The brand’s market performance made a strong impression on five Filipina students who met in Boston, Massachusetts while studying there for their Master’s degrees. They became good friends and when they individually moved back to the Philippines between 2000 and 2003, they decided to look for a good investment together.

“The owners of Regatta offered to sell us the company,” recalls Melissa Floirendo, now Regatta’s managing director. “We saw its strong branding and potential for growth, so we decided to take the opportunity and bought the company in 2003.”

Floirendo takes care of the business, while her four friends, who had chosen to be silent partners, are members of the company board.

A FRESH TEAM

After formally purchasing the company, the group hired designers Maja Olivares-Co and Hannah Olivares-Navato of Sonia Santiago-Olivares & Associates to renovate Regatta’s flagship Glorietta branch, then commissioned another young designer, Tippi Ocampo, to create their colorful summer collection.

“Our goal was to update the look and image of the brand as well as increase awareness and sales,” says Floirendo. “We invested in PR and in a launch event, hired key people, updated Regatta’s business processes, and automated key areas.”

The reinvigorated brand was welcomed by the public. “The reception of loyal and new customers was extremely positive, particularly during summer and Christmas, which are our peak seasons,” she says.

Floirendo says that Regatta’s main claim to fame is its emphasis on versatile designs and quality fabrics. “We’ve kept up Regatta’s tradition of casual style, keeping the clothes versatile enough for working at the office, shopping, partying, or lounging,” she says. “We use natural fabrics as much as possible and make it a point to infuse stylish details into must-have essentials. Our bestsellers are the honeycomb shirt for men and women, the striped tops with ruffles, the crust white shirts, the rayon dresses, and the logo tees.”

The brand uses fabrics that are either sourced from local suppliers or ordered from abroad. Floirendo and her team then develop the designs and have the clothes manufactured locally. This streamlined process guarantees that new shipments arrive at the store every week.

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KEEPING THEIR EYES ON THE PRIZE

Regatta’s basic way of doing business, however, is still pretty much the same as it was from the start. The company remains focused on its original target market—males and females from ages 20 to 40 in the A, B, and C classes, and children.

“When we bought the company in 2003, we were very lucky to have inherited a good group of people, both in the head office and in the stores,” says Floirendo. “We have about 20 employees, which is pretty much the same as when we first started. This made the transition from the previous owners to our group very smooth, and although we systematized several of the business processes, we also learned a lot from them.”

Floirendo says that the Regatta team makes it a point to always listen to their customers and to go the extra mile to make them happy. “We take pride in our good customer service, and our customers always remind us to keep up the good service and our versatile product offerings,” she says.

The new owners of Regatta have since moved their original store from Greenbelt 1 to Greenbelt 3 and, because of the increasing demand for Regatta’s apparel and accessories, they have already begun expanding the business through franchising.

Their five-year franchise fee for a Regatta store is P500,000, renewable for five years. The total initial investment will range from P2 million to P3 million, with a projected payback period of two to three years.

In May this year, Regatta opened its first franchised store at Ayala’s TriNoma Mall at North EDSA in Quezon City and the second in June at the Ayala Center in Cebu City.

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