Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:58:00 06/08/2008
MANILA, Philippines - It was a running joke among the Keng and Cheng families that if they ever opened a new branch of The Landmark, it would be the best department store and supermarket in the Philippines.
“No, the best in the world,” one of them would say, and they would all end up laughing about how grand, and perhaps unattainable, that sounded.
It seems the joke was on them, as their newest baby, The Landmark Trinoma, was recently chosen Store of the Year by the Florida, USA-based Association for Retail Environments, and first place in the Supermarket/Grocery category by the Institute of Store Planners/ VM+SD International Store Design Competition.
The award was given by the ISP and the retail design industry professionals’ magazine Visual Merchandising + Store Design. Its designer, Montclair, New Jersey’s Hugh A. Boyd Architects, was also cited for Innovative Store Planning.
Landmark Corp. took the slow but sure route to opening a sister-branch to its Makati store, taking 20 long years to open the doors to its bigger, far grander branch located farther north of the metropolis, in Trinoma, Quezon City.
“We had ongoing plans to expand,” said Kenneth Keng, assistant to the vice president, and son of one of The Landmark’s founders. “But something always came up, like a coup or something else. Each passing year we made sure that if ever we did get a chance to open another store, it had to be really dramatic, light years beyond whatever we had in Makati.”
When the opportunity presented itself, the company tapped Hugh A. Boyd Architects to design its supermarket, and Callison Architecture Inc. for the department store, the latter having worked with Ayala for the Greenbelt project.
“What was here compared to what the rest of the world had was probably 10 years behind,” Keng said. “We wanted something that was up-to-date with the rest of the world. It had to be spacious since Filipinos shop as a family. We wanted to make sure kids had a space to run around.”
The Landmark in Trinoma measures over 15,000 sq m on each of its four levels, or about 150 percent bigger than the Makati branch.
“There were many ways we could’ve saved a few pesos here and there, but we figured the customers would expect something different so we went all out,” Keng said. Three elevators connect all levels, while a moving ramp was installed to give supermarket shoppers direct access to the parking lots.
The store can be accessed from several points, giving equal consideration to both commuting and car-owning patrons: on the main supermarket entrance on Mindanao Avenue, where there’s a taxi and FX stand; the department store lobby from Trinoma Mall, directly from the MRT station; and from the multilevel parking entrances.
“We had very impassioned arguments with our designers. They explained to us that what they were doing was different from what we were used to,” Keng said.
For instance, the preparation areas for produce, meat, poultry and seafood is open so that shoppers could see how clean and sterile the merchandise is prepared. The owners, who were initially doubtful that the unpleasant odor in the fish section could be totally eliminated, are pleased that their new drainage and refrigeration system from Singapore has dealt with that problem.
The supermarket’s sleek design marries aesthetics with function, characterized by undulating lines of refrigeration pods housing meats, poultry and seafood. The design is repeated throughout as fresh fruits and vegetables are housed in oval and round glass-encased islands.
There are 40-50 checkout counters so that lines never get too long. Unlike other supermarkets, dedicated baggers are assigned to assist shoppers at every counter. All counters are equipped with conveyor belts for more convenient handling.
All logos of concessionaires in the food court are uniformly carved in wood. Tables by Corian are scratch-resistant, Keng said, and all the chairs were imported from Australia.
“In Makati, we are constrained by space. Here we can experiment. So customers can get brands they won’t find in other stores at prices they won’t find in other stores,” he added.
The department store on the three upper levels has two full atriums on opposite ends with skylights. An area called Bazaar occupies a vast expanse on one side for “shoppers who like the tiangge experience. Others have this, too, but for us we made sure that it isn’t in a forgotten corner of the store where the floorings aren’t even finished.”
Its longtime tenant in Makati, Café Via Mare, is now joined by Bread Talk in Trinoma, with another coffee shop to open soon.
Buoyed by the response of their Trinoma patrons, Keng said the Makati branch begins a major renovation this month.
“We won’t be demolishing the building but we’re going all the way in Makati, even better than what we’ve done with Trinoma. Makati will always be Makati. We are still doing good even after the explosion in Glorietta. And we do best when we compete directly.”