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Zen Zest: A Zest for Scents

It is in feeding vanity that Zen Zest thrives – in the observation that, “no matter how tough the economy gets, Filipinos still find the time and budget to hunt for and buy products that will make them look good and feel good.”

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Practical business sense.

That, says Michelle Dula Asence, was the impetus of the start of Zen Zest, a Filipino-owned body and bath company.

“When I began the business, the population of the Philippines was about 80 million. Now, if just one million Filipinos who take a bath and use scents, buy my products, then I’ll be rich. Lahat naman naliligo, ‘di ba? (Everybody takes a bath, right?)” Asence was earlier quoted as saying to Enterprise Magazine.

And it is in feeding vanity that Zen Zest thrives – in the observation that, “no matter how tough the economy gets, Filipinos still find the time and budget to hunt for and buy products that will make them look good and feel good.”

No wonder that just five years after the company opened, it already had 33 outlets in the country, plus outlets in Bahrain and Japan.

Good business sense can only go so far, though, as Asence proves – she, herself, has fondness for beauty products, particularly perfumes, something she attributes to have inherited from her late uncle, journalist Rod Dula, who had “all the perfumes that came out,” and who had about 300 bottles of perfumes when he passed away. Dula’s encouragement – and approximately P300,000 in capital loaned from her parents – helped bring Zen Zest into being.

That was in 2001.

After conducting a feasibility study, Asence discovered that there was no local brand of complete body and bath care products available in the market. “The imported brands were very expensive,” she recalled. “I’d buy an imported body scrub, but since it was so expensive, titipirin ko ‘yung gamit, hindi ko magagamit araw-araw. Ayaw ko ‘yun. Gusto ko ‘yung laging magagamit (I would use it sparingly. I couldn’t use it every day. I didn’t like that. I wanted a product that I could afford to use each time).”

Asence was not even discouraged by the fact that when she started Zen Zest, the Philippines was just recovering from the Asian financial crisis.

“Everything for me is an opportunity. There is no setback for me,” she said. “The Asian financial crisis was something good that happened to me. Ang mga tao, nagsimulang magtipid (People started to be more frugal), even in their beauty and body products’ expenditures. They could no longer afford the usual imported products so they shifted to local items. Like me, they looked for cheaper but good-quality alternatives.”

Perhaps a little-known fact is that Asence, herself, did almost everything when Zest Zest just started – e.g. after training for about three months under a chemist, she learned how to formulate and prepare concoctions that resulted in her initial products of cologne, hand sanitizer, lotion, perfume, and soap; and she, too, personally packaged the products, delivered them, and arranged them for display in her first outlet in SM Megamall.

Asence proudly claimed that she was able to grow the business from its initial investment alone, and, to date, she has not made any bank loan to support or expand the business.

After its opening in May 2001, Zen Zest already grew into five outlets by December of the same year. And to date, fragrances — body sprays, colognes, and eau de toilettes — account for about 50% of Zen Zest’s total sales. Female patrons, from seven-year-olds to grandmothers, make up the majority of its clients, though men are also a growing market.

Zen Zest has undergone numerous changes since its inception – mainly obvious in the reengineered labeling and packaging that puts it at par with imported brands [“Ang produkto, parang tao ‘yan (A product is like a person). Like a plain Jane, after undergoing treatment by a cosmetic surgeon, looks so much better. Ganoon din ang produkto — simpleng produkto lang (A product is the same—it begins as a simple item), but with an improved appearance and package, iba na rin ang dating (its quality goes up),” Asence said].

It is the re-imagined Zen Zest that broke the international market for the company, as it braved the markets of neighboring Asian countries, including Japan, where the cocktail collection of “night life” scents that are named after drinks such as Cosmopolitan, Margherita, and White Russia are big hits.

Yet another way for Zen Zest to grow that Asence realized is through franchising. “Franchising is also better because we’re like one big happy family, for my franchisees are my friends. Also through franchising, it would be easier for the company to focus on R&D, and other aspects of the business,” she said.

Franchising Zen Zest costs P150,000 (inclusive of a cart and P50,000 worth of items, offered at 50% discount to franchisees).

To keep Zen Zest on top, Asence believes in keeping its products affordable.

“I’d rather have lower profits than no sales at all. Last Christmas, we offered gift packs for only P99. Mahirap gawin ‘yun, ang ganda pa (That was hard to do, and the pack were so nice to look at). We had to sacrifice our profits; at least, the Christmas shoppers bought from us and not from the more expensive competition. In this business and in this country, the businesses can’t demand from the customers. Dapat kung ano ‘yung kaya nila, ‘yun dapat ang bibigay namin (What the customers can afford, that’s what you should give them),” Asence ended.

"If someone asked you about me, about what I do for a living, it's to 'weave words'," says Kiki Tan, who has been a writer "for as long as I care to remember." This one writes about... anything and everything.

Beauty & Fashion

UNIQLO Mall of Asia store reopens on May 17

The branch first opened in 2012 as the global brand’s very first store in the Philippines, introducing Filipinos to UNIQLO’s stylish and functional everyday clothing.

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UNIQLO’s original MOA store is set to open its doors once more after major updates. The newly revamped store comes with a bigger space and larger offerings.

The branch opened in 2012 as the global brand’s very first store in the Philippines, introducing Filipinos to UNIQLO’s stylish and functional everyday clothing. With its sprawling 1,550 square meters at that time, the store served thousands of customers in the largest mall in the country and remained as one of the go-to hubs for LifeWear.

On May 17, the all-new UNIQLO MOA store promises to be even bigger with a doubled-up floor space of over 3,000 square meters spread across two floors. Loyal and new customers alike will surely enjoy the store’s new layout and latest presentations, as the space evolves with the new lifestyles of Filipinos.

Redefined experiences

Aside from featuring a vast selection of LifeWear pieces, the all-new UNIQLO MOA store will also redefine the retail experience where in-store and online shopping comes hand-in-hand. Store-driven efforts such as same-day Click & Collect are set to give customers an integrated shopping experience with UNIQLO.

The all-new UNIQLO MOA store will also be the second store in the country to have UNIQLO Coffee and UTMe! Originally only available at UNIQLO Manila Global Flagship Store in Glorietta 5, UNIQLO Coffee and UTme! is coming to the MOA store to delight coffee lovers and art lovers, respectively.

UNIQLO Coffee in the Philippines presents locally sourced, high-quality coffee beans from Mt. Apo, and features goods and pastries that mix Filipino and Japanese flavors.

Meanwhile, the UTme! service lets customers customize shirts and tote bags with various designs from its library or their own creations and images. To celebrate the new opening, UNIQLO is expanding its UTme! line-up with new designs in collaboration with partners from the local community.

Redefined lifestyles

The UNIQLO MOA store offers the brand’s complete LifeWear collection for men’s, women’s, kids, and babies. The all-new store spotlights essentials that are made for all, such as, the UNIQLO Core T and UNIQLO BraTop collection. Collaboration pieces with world renowned designers and pop culture brands will also be available.

Mark your calendars on May 17 and join the eventful re-opening of the UNIQLO MOA store at Level 2 to 3 of MOA’s North main mall, sure to be filled with exciting surprises with a redefined shopping experience like no other.

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Beauty & Fashion

Decathlon opens new Cebu City store

It is the first store outside Mega Manila for the France-based sports brand, our 6th store in partnership with SM, and the first Decathlon Philippines store to open this 2024.

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Global sports retail brand Decathlon unveils its 10th store in the Philippines, a 3,000 sqm sports retail zone at SM City Cebu. It is the first store outside Mega Manila for the France-based sports brand, our 6th store in partnership with SM, and the first Decathlon Philippines store to open this 2024. 

“We are excited to launch not only a new store, but a key milestone for us in making sports accessible to more and more Filipinos,” Hans Iff, President of Decathlon Philippines, states. “In Decathlon we always go where the sport lovers are, and Cebu is the perfect starting line for us, with its blend of urban playgrounds and nature destinations, and of course its active and dynamic residents. We look forward to welcoming all sport lovers and sparking the wonders of sport within each one.” 

Decathlon Cebu offers an expansive range of products for over 70 sports, with expansive display areas and experience zones for everyone to try and test. “We are happy to be in Cebu, a home for outdoor, water, and multisport activities, and a popular local and international tourist hub. Our goal is to be where the sport passionates are, but we also recognize that we are so much more than sport – we exist to unlock the love of sport in everyone. We look forward to having everyone discover our best-value sports products at an accessible price, and welcome everyone in SM City Cebu, ” Hathaipat ‘Spray’ Theintangpiriya, store leader for Cebu and city leader for Visayas and Mindanao, shares. 

Spray also assures that the Decathlon journey will continue to grow in the Visayas region. “Our Cebu store is only the starting line of an exciting Decathlon adventure. Our mission definitely isn’t done, and you can look forward to having more and more stores within the region in the coming years.” 

Decathlon Cebu also has a few surprises for all sport lovers this opening week. On March 1 only, the first 100 customers will receive an exclusive Decathlon backpack. On March 1 to 3, customers with a minimum purchase of P3500 will get an exclusive Decathlon Cebu tote bag, and on March 4-10, a special dry bag awaits customers with a minimum single receipt worth Php 3500. Only Decathlon members are eligible for the promos – simply sign up for free to enjoy up to 2-year warranty and 365-day refund and exchange on most items, access to Decathlon playgrounds and sports events, and more member-only promos and exclusives. 

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Beauty & Fashion

Introducing Emirates’ Business Class loungewear

Emirates’ Business Class loungewear is composed of a super soft premium modal material, which customers find lightweight and breathable.

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 Emirates Business Class customers will now be able to enjoy a complimentary inflight loungewear set which includes a relaxed cowl neck top and drawstring pants, comfortable slippers, and a matching eye mask. The luxurious loungewear is designed to be the ideal ‘flight fit’ – perfect for sleeping in, but also suitable to wear for a social drink at the A380 onboard lounge, or as a casual outfit that takes you from aircraft to arrivals in style.

Emirates’ Business Class loungewear is composed of a super soft premium modal material, which customers find lightweight and breathable. Designed to reflect contemporary athleisure trends, the cozy fabric is in a relaxing shade of light blue, available in two sizes. The botanic fibers and jersey knit style means the loungewear has an elegant drape that flatters various body types, ensuring soft and stretchy comfort above the clouds. Presented in a complementary drawstring pouch, each set contains an adjustable loungewear top and pants, a pair of warm slippers and an eye mask.

Emirates Business Class customers will be offered the loungewear set upon boarding so they can change at their leisure and maximize comfort for the full duration of the flight. On flights of 9 hours or more, Business Class customers will receive the full set with loungewear top and pants, slippers and eye mask, while on flights that have a duration of 2 hours and 30 minutes, customers will receive complimentary slippers and eye mask sets.

The launch of Business Class Loungewear forms part of Emirates’ ongoing investment into elevating customer experience, ensuring customers in all classes ‘fly better’. Recent investments have included a huge retrofit project of 120 aircraft with upgraded cabin interiors, creative new menus and new high-quality ingredients, exclusive champagne partnerships, a new hospitality program for Emirates cabin crew, live TV onboard amidst a vast library of inflight entertainment, complimentary Wi-Fi attainable for all customers, luxurious amenity kits and a world-class wine list.

The multimillion-dollar investment into Business Class loungewear has been in development for more than a year, designed in-house by the Emirates team to be best-in-class for comfort, style and reusability. During the trial period on routes to and from New York and Boston, customers shared highly positive feedback on the loungewear, with sets being taken home by customers to be worn again.

Experience true inflight comfort with Emirates Business Class

When you fly Emirates Business Class, your journey becomes as exciting and memorable as your destination. Choose from a curated selection of regionally inspired gourmet dishes and enjoy the different flavors of the world, and then immerse yourself in Emirates’ award-winning entertainment with more than 6,500 channels of on-demand content for you to explore.

Pamper yourself and stay refreshed with the complimentary travel amenity kit featuring Bulgari products and comfort essentials including a dental kit, double mirror, deodorant, tissues, and a foldaway hairbrush. Relax and unwind in your seat which seamlessly reclines into a fully flat bed with a soft, comfy mattress and a cozy blanket for a good night’s sleep.

With Emirates Business Class, you also get exclusive access to Emirates chauffeur drive service for a seamless, door-to-door experience to and from the airport, available in over 70 cities worldwide. You’ll also get access to Emirates’ Business Class Lounge which offers complimentary Wi-Fi, a well-equipped Business Center, and an array of gourmet dining options and exclusive beverages, allowing you to ease into the next step of your journey.

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