RUSTAN'S SINCE 1952
1 “Rustan’s” is a portmanteau of the founders’ last names, Rustia and Tantoco. But it was almost Tanrus. “But my grandfather decided, ‘Pangit. Walang pupunta.’ The decision to make it Rustan’s gave it a more feminine touch, from the logo to the products we first carried.”
The first Tantoco home was on Quality Street. “I was reading a book on Manila by Nick Joaquin and realized that the first house my lolo built for her so that he could prove to her family that he was worthy of her was on Quality Street. I don’t know if seeing that every day somehow had an effect on them, but quality is certainly what Rustan’s is about.”
3 The man who thought of coining the name “Rustan” was Jessie Belo, who used to do the marketing for the Rufino theaters and was a good friend of the ambassador.
4 Hollywood and films played a role in what set Rustan’s apart. “Retail is theater. Retail is art. My lolo used to work with the Rufinos in their movie theater business and go to Hollywood, essentially as a buyer of movies and meet with all the major studios then. So very early on, he and my grandmother saw that retail, at least the way we wanted to do it, was not just a necessary transaction— there had to be a sense of entertainment about it.”
Feminism as a retail strategy. “I have learned many lessons from my grandfather, but the greatest may be that a woman feels her most powerful when she feels her most beautiful. And that’s why we have to give her everything that makes her feel that way: bags, shoes, makeup perfume, everything! My grandfather knows more about women than anyone else I know, and that’s a big part of Rustan’s! I always ask him if there’s something that baffles me about women.”
The idea of combining a department store and a supermarket came from trips to Tokyo. “My lola saw the stores in Japan, with the grocery in the basement floor and the department store on the top floors. No one was doing that here and so when they got the offer to build a store in Makati, they wanted to do that here too.”
13 Though Rustan’s is primarily associated with premier imported goods, its first specialty department was Our Very Own, a section of Filipiniana products, established just a few years after the founding in 1952.
7 The decision to move to Makati all came down to friendship. “One of the Ayala executives was a good friend of my grandparents, and there really wasn’t anything yet in Makati. I guess you could just chalk it up to entrepreneurial daring. They also told them that they could pick any spot, and we’re still there.”
8 All the Tantoco children had to learn how to gift-wrap and to this day, all the Tantoco daughters personally wrap their Christmas gifts. “The instructional video that all employees watch to learn how to wrap stars my Ninang Nedy!” Donnie says with tender fondness and a hearty laugh. Ninang Nedy is Zenaida Tantoco, eldest daughter among the Tantocos and the company chairperson.
9 Shopping is a playground, literally. “When the children’s department was new, my dad had just passed a playground with toy elephants and tigers, and decided that was how he wanted that department to look like. So they brought an actual playground to the store, and the kids would sit on the animals when they had to try on stuff!”
10 Rustan’s is the only store outside the US with Oleg Cassini merchandise. “It still does well! It may not be as famous as it used to be, but my grandfather insists that we still stock it because it was among the first brands that supported us. He always says that in business, it will be the relationships that you build, and the trust that comes out of it that will sustain you. And he’s absolutely right!”
11 Rustan’s Fashion Avenue was the first boutique within a store layout in the country and it featured big fashion names: Lanvin, Nina Ricci, Emanuel Ungaro, Guy Laroche, Bill Blass, Yves Saint Laurent, Sonia Rykiel and, of course, Oleg Cassini.
12 The supermarket had the same approach to everyday grocery items as to its fashion and beauty offers. Rustan’s introduced the idea that supermarket goods could also be luxury items. “We were the first to bring in Chupa Chups and Kikkoman,” Donnie shares. His first job in Rustan’s was in the supermarket. “I had to stock shelves, work in customer care and goods receiving. My salary was hamburgers!”
14 When Rustan’s first came out with a house brand called Lady Rustan’s, founder Glecy Tantoco personally chose all the items. “My first time to travel was when I was 11 years old on a business trip to Hong Kong, and my lola was choosing buckles for bags. I hadn’t eaten lunch and was starving. So I finally told her and she took pity on me. But she just took out some biscuits, handed them to me and just went straight back to work.”
15 For the longest time, the Rustan’s tagline was “Where shopping is a pleasure.” But for the 30th anniversary, it launched the tagline “You’re my kind of store.”
Also on their 30th year, with stores in Makati, Cubao, Cebu and Harrison Plaza, Rustan’s had retail space of 48,640 square meters.
When the founders were starting, they trained sales staff to memorize the prices and stories of all the products. “The oldtimers told me that they were not allowed to look at the price tags. My lola also told them that instead of saying the price, they had to say first where the item was made; for example, ‘This product is made by the oldest company in Firenze in Italy.’ Once the customer heard the story, they care more about that than the price itself.”
Specialty shops launched that are still part of the store are Silver Vault for fine jewelry and watches, and Rustan’s Flower Shop.
Rustan’s had the first art gallery within a department store called Galerie Bleue.
There has always been a Cartier shop on the first floor by the shop’s entrance. To launch the Cartier Santos watch, imported laserbeam machines were used in the first ever local fashion show to do so.
21 It’s timely that 2017 is also the 70th year of Dior’s New Look; after all, Rustan’s collaborated with the House of Dior for its first offshore license. Glency Tantoco sought out Christian Dior himself to propose that Dior designs be manufactured with the finest materials in Filipino ateliers. Dior agreed to the arrangement and the brand became locally available only at Rustan’s.
A beauty first was its French Fragrance Festival with the iconic perfumes of Christian Dior, Nina Ricci, Yves Saint Laurent, Paco Rabanne, Parfums Rochas and Van Cleef & Arpels.
The following legendary brands were brought in by Rustan’s: Yardley, Mary Quant, Lancôme and Helena Rubinstein.
Rustan’s launched the first youth-themed group, the Young Expressive Set, which was then renamed The Young VIP Council. “They were the influencers before there were influencers.”
Some notable past members of the Young VIP Council were: Meg Paris, Tina Revilla, Cherie Gil, Bing Pimentel, Monique Wilson and former Miss International Aurora Pijuan.
In the club: Rustan’s introduced a promotion named The Spice of Life that not only gave away a prize, but also gave one membership to a homeowners circle that made them eligible for discounts and in-store activities.
Going flat: Rustan’s was the first store to give away three condominiums as prizes in a raffle dubbed “Elegant Living.”
Rustan’s was among the first stores to give discounts to accredited architects and interior designers.
Rustan’s Supermarket was the first to display appliances in a grocery setting.
Rustan’s pioneered the National Festival, highlighting a country and its products with events like Buon Giornio Italia and The British Fortnight.
They rebranded their Filipiniana division as Our Very Own in the mid-80s.
The store-within-a-store concept expanded to the supermarket with a confectionery shop Bon Appetit and wine and spirits shop The Vineyard.
The first cooking demonstration in a store was done by culinary doyenne Nora Daza, who was then assisted by her now restaurateur son Sandy.
To further solidify their custom of personal service, Rustan’s offers monogram embroidery, bronzing of baby shoes, engraving and etching.
For their 30th or pearl anniversary, Glecy Tantoco wrote: “Rustan’s has always geared every aspect of its operations to shoppers’ needs and expectations.” Ambassador Benny Tantoco, also on the same occasion, declared: “We adopt practices that make shopping a pleasant experience.”
This ethos saw itself concretely carried out in the small white plaques that were placed on all the store displays: “Please handle our merchandise. You’ll love it.”
The home section bragged these heritage brands on its roster: Daum, Wedgewood, Lalique, Swarovski, Oneida and Sevres. Recent additions include Bernardaud, Meissen and Ralph Lauren and Kate Spade home lines.
Some of the first luxury watches sold at the Silver Vault were Chopard, Movado and Vacheron Constantin. Rustan’s also famously introduced Philippe Charriol to the country. Last year Damiani’s line that benefits impoverished African villages was introduced by brand ambassador former football player and men’s fashion star Hidetoshi Nakata.
Stockings were not readily available in postwar Manila. When Glecy filled several suitcases and surprised her clients with their first glimpse of hosiery, her stash quickly sold out.
Rustan’s house brands have become local household words. Monsieur Rustan’s and Lady Executive Stage 7 were lines for corporate clothes; Rustanette for children, and Lady Rustan is still a store fave.
Manna by Babette Aquino was also an early favorite.
Due by Rhett Eala, now better known for couture gowns, was also a popular choice of local fashion followers.
Rustan’s introduced the personal shopper, that special blend of life coach and style lifesaver, and the first ever personal shopper was local swan Chona Kasten.
Men’s faves Dunhill and Ermenegildo Zegna are tailoring classics and marquee names of the Rustan’s men’s division.
The children’s department pioneered kiddie clubs with the Rustan’s Baby Club and Rainbow Riders.
To introduce new brands, Glecy Tantoco would invite lifestyle editors and magazine writers for special one-on-one tours to describe the actual merchandise and concepts behind the displays. Donnie smiles and concedes, “There was only one GRT and no one can ever do it the way she did.” 48 When Rustan’s did the first major renovation of their Makati store and Glecy Tantoco was based in Morocco, architectural plans had to be scaled so that they could fit on fax paper so she could see the plans for each and every floor. 49 When major typhoons Milenyo and Ondoy hit the Philippines, Nedy Tantoco spearheaded One World, One Christmas and sought the cooperation of Rustan’s suppliers from France, Italy, the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Brazil, Canada and Singapore to provide noche buena for affected families, and this promotion is now a centerpiece project during the holidays.
Rustan’s also works with The Children’s Hour for Christmas donations.
The Rustan’s Group of Companies, through the Tantoco-rustia foundations, was a major benefactor of the redevelopment of The Paco Market, which previously was a major pollutant of the Pasig River. At the rededication of the revamped Paco Market, Ambassador Tantoco stated: “It’s just the first step in realizing many dreams, dreams of a legacy that will create higher quality lives for future generations.”
To launch Rustan’s in the expanded Ayala Center in Cebu, a collaboration was commissioned between Kenneth Cobonpue and Cary Santiago for the centerpiece installation.
Table settings by the premier events stylist of Cebu Teresin Mendezona and international bridal and celebrity designer Monique Lhullier graced the homes section of the revamped Rustan’s Cebu.
At the opening of Rustan’s Cebu, the ambassador quipped that it was now the store to be the template of future Rustan’s stores. He also said at the opening, “Rustan’s is not just a store, it’s a heritage.”
Rustan’s offered the first gift certificates from a department store.
Rustan’s Frequent Shoppers Program (FSP) was the first rewards program for 57 Relaunched this year, the improved Rustan’s FSP now entitles cardholders to international shops such as Tang’s in Singapore and Central Retail Group in Thailand. Cardholders can also earn points by shopping in Adora, Debenhams and all SSI stores.
In 2015, Rustan’s acquired Adora. Founded by Tantoco heirs Merle Tantoco-pineda and her maverick son Eman Pineda (who also started Tyler, Harlan+holden and the local shop of Rimowa, the German luggage brand). Asked if he felt any bittersweet separation anxiety, Eman answered, “Lolo wanted it, and I also see the synergy.”
Rustan’s created the country’s first luxury bridal registry.
On its 65th year, Rustan’s won an award for retail excellence from the International Home and Housewares show in Chicago, besting members from 370 retailers from 45 countries.
Confidentiality about suppliers was an early pillar of the group and it was all about a baker. When Rustan’s in San Marcelino was new, Glecy Tantoco’s daily snack was pan de sal from the neighboring baker. One day, the baker was out of bread because his flour supplier closed shop. The enterprising entrepreneur then searched for a flour supplier and then started selling flour to the baker until he followed her one day and discovered her secret source.
The first head of visual merchandising at Rustan’s started out as a janitor. 63 As president, Donnie coined “WISDOM” to encapsulate the Rustan’s core values: winning, integrity, sharing, daring and malasakit. “These are not my words. I just used what I’ve been hearing from my grandparents, parents and aunts, and put them all together.” 64 The top selling local designer for ladies’ wear is Criselda, designed by former model turned designer Criselda Lontokfernandez, who was personally chosen by Glecy Tantoco and who still shows up at the store every day for personalized consultation.
Rustan’s will eventually bring their experience online. “We don't want to just do it for the sake of it. We want to ensure that that special feeling, that Rustan’s brand of shopping, will still be deeply felt even on an online transaction.”
Though he’s not as known today, French designer Louis Féraud was very much in-demand when power dressing and Dynasty ladies ruled the day, and was brought in by Rustan’s in the ‘80s.