Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ten Things You Should Know About TICKLES

Back during my time, when you're a student with a limited budget, Tickles was the place to go to for retail therapy. It was not uncommon for my friends and I to head out to Tickles to pick up a stuffed flower (it's a flower made out of stuffed toy material heehee), stationery, or whatever fun, unnecessary tchotchke they had in store.

So when Tickles finally opened their 80 sqm circus-themed flagship store in Megamall this month, it wasn't a suprise at all that my mom friends all suddenly had Tickles on their Instagram feed. It was the original wasteland of our youth. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, which I doubt, here are ten fun facts about one of my favorite stores in the 90s.

1. Tickles brings out the feel good vibes.

“It seems that a lot of people are rooting for Tickles, because it’s a homegrown brand that carries a lot of fond memories,” says Carlo Tanseco, Creative Director of Tickles. 

True enough, the site of a boarded up store in Megamall with the Tickles logo on it was enough to send me spiralling back to memory lane, back when I was in high school and my friends and I would visit the store in Greenhills and come out with stuff we don't really need but had to have because they were so cute!

2. It's steeped in history and the founder's love for retail.

For my millennial readers who are not familiar with Tickles, you're gonna love the heritage and history behind it. 

Tickles was established in 1979 by Yoya Tanseco, Carlo’s mom, who is still its chairman, chief visionary and master shopper. A creative soul, intrepid businesswoman, and social butterfly rolled into one, Yoya dove into several successful business ventures before finding her true niche in retail.

“From dressmaking and designing wedding gowns, to catering and making cakes for children’s parties, name it, I’ve done it! I’m the type who can’t sit still,” recounts Yoya. “But ever since childhood, I’ve always loved retail. When we would make bahay-bahayan, I would be the treasurer and the purchaser. Mahilig ako sa kaha and purchasing.“ 

And so together with her sister and a good friend, Yoya she set up the very first Tickles in Shoppesville, Greenhills, stocking it with all sorts of cute gift items and adorable finds from travels to New York and Japan. “That was the time Hello Kitty was popular, and all the ballpens were so cute. In school, yan ang weakness ko—notebooks, ballpens… And so I enjoyed shopping for Tickles so much kasi ‘cutie-cutie.’” Everything she picked out would fly off the shelves, and she realized she was able to turn her love for shopping and travel into something that brought happiness to others. 

Soon, the store was no longer just a hobby, and when her sister and friend migrated abroad, she ran the store on her own. Later on, she enlisted the help of her children (and eventually, Chun-chi Soler, Chief Operating Officer) to help with the store’s expansion. 

3. It's a bounce back from the ashes (or in this case, basics) sort of story.

Branching out from the original shop in Greenhills, Tickles set up stores in Shangri-La Plaza, Robinsons Manila, Glorietta, and Alabang Town Center in the 1990s. However, with a struggling economy and the kids busy with other ventures, the stores dwindled to one branch in Glorietta. Even the goods on display were a sign of the times: “Everything was just very basic and functional,” shares Carlo. “But we didn’t want my mom’s dream to die; the brand was still strong, and so with Chun-chi’s help, we focused on reviving the store.” 

Fast-forward to today: Tickles is back and bigger than ever, now with 11 stores across the metro.

4. It's worth checking out their sister stores: a'postrophe and ROY & BIV.

Tickles has also spun off into two other concept stores: a’postrophe, featuring more “grown-up” fashion and lifestyle items, and the bright and cheery ROY & BIV, where quirky gift items are categorized into the colors of the rainbow. Tickles, a’postrophe, and ROY & BIV also all carry the sub-brand Elemenopy (“Made from 100% genuine letter,” Chun-chi quips), which creates a distinct line of monogram- and letter-inspired merchandise for each of the brands. 

5. It continues to be the go-to place for fun, gifts and novelties

From your go-to gift shop for special occasions, Tickles has evolved into a novelty shop for all seasons—and generations. “The line is more curated, and yet now appeals to different markets,” says Carlo.

6. Most of their products are original designs.

In their effort to offer unique items you can’t find anywhere else, the Tickles team now designs their own products, and also collaborates with other brands. Which shouldn't come as a surprise because I remember my former officemate Sabs Cacho once told me that Carlo has an impressive background in industrial design.

“Now, most of the items in the store are proprietary, which means we make it ourselves. Some of the items are still sourced, or made exclusively for us by international suppliers, but our focus is to design our own items. Our goal is to be 100% Tickles-branded,” Carlo reveals. “We also try to find the best sources to make our items affordable,” adds Chun-chi.

7. They will keep evolving, and moving on to next big hit.

In a market where nothing stays original for long, the team’s challenge is to come up with items that will tickle the fancy of their customers before anyone else. “We always think, what can we offer that is unique, that is not out there yet?” shares Carlo. “It’s inevitable that people will copy our items; it happens. But my perspective is to keep moving forward, design more, be ahead of the trend.” 

8. Expect something fresh and new each visit.

New items are introduced every week, so there’s always something fresh to discover at the store. At the heart of everything they source or create for Tickles is the mission to bring “Happiness All Year Round.”

9. Tickles knows what we want.

From all-time favorite cute Japanese pens and notebooks with humorous sayings, to this season’s bestselling eye masks and food-inspired plushies, the Tickles team lead by Yoya Tanseco seems to know exactly the “kiliti” of Pinoys—perhaps the secret to why they’ve outlasted local and foreign competitors alike.

10. Heritage, forward thinking and a desire to keep it's customers happy is the key.

“I’d like to think that it’s the memory attached to the brand, and the feel-good items in the store, that have made us last all these years,” shares Carlo. “We’re just here to put smiles on their faces.” 

Tickles is located at Glorietta 4, Greenbelt 1, Power Plant Mall, SM Megamall A, TriNoma, UP Town Center, Alabang Town Center, Market! Market!, Marquee Mall, Fairview Terraces, and Ayala Center Cebu. Follow @tickles_PH on Twitter and Instagram, or visit Tickles_ph on Facebook.

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