Published: Monday January 13, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday January 13, 2014 MYT 8:02:16 AM
FOR many decades, Habib Jewels Sdn Bhd has been the jeweller many Malaysians think of when asked to name a local company dealing in high-end jewellery.
With a wide collection of exclusively-designed jewellery and top quality gems and diamonds coupled with a professional team of expert craftsmen, Habib Jewels has never failed to lure the rich and famous to its stores.
However, over the last few years, the company has been working hard to reposition itself by coming up with a series of promotions to attract those in the middle-income bracket and working class to buy a piece of their jewellery.
“We are still strong and taking the lead in the Malay market. However, many do not realise that the majority of our customers at our branches in The Curve, Midvalley, KLCC, and Gurney Plaza Penang malls are Chinese and Indian.
“We also have foreign clients too,” said Mohd Zaruddin Mahmud, the company’s general manager, at its head office at Ampang Point recently.
According to Mohd Zaruddin, who joined Habib 10 years ago as a branch manager, the latest trend seems to be colourful gemstones decked in sparkling diamonds.
“This trend made its appearance at international trade shows late last year. Women are focusing on gemstone and diamond sets in gold or white gold because people have become more cautious about spending.
“Since diamonds are getting more expensive, gemstones look like a better choice,” said the 47-year-old marketing and finance graduate from UUM who hails from Sungai Besar, Selangor.
Habib conducted a survey last year and discovered that the general perception is that the company only catered to the wealthy. Because of this, the company decided to launch a different approach to address the situation. In marketing campaigns that followed, the company set out to make itself the jeweller where “everyone could afford a piece of Habib, starting from as low as RM100”.
For instance, rings, earrings and pendants with chains in the Ice Habib Collection cost RM700 each, while a set costs RM2,080. The collection has been such a hit among newly weds that they have to multiply its production.
Those who still want exclusive high-end designs can head for Habib showrooms in specific places like Curve, Midvalley, KLCC and Gurney Plaza Penang.
“Every showroom has a different identity and we are starting to tailor this. Our shop in Semua House in Kuala Lumpur is for the middle class and is one of our most popular stores,” he said.
Even their year-end “Cuci Gudang” sale at rock-bottom prices, conducted at the three stores in Ampang Point in KL, and Air Keroh and Plaza Angsana in Johor was such a hit that it attracted thousands, giving the shops a ‘pasar malam’ air.
Habib Jewels, which prides itself as a leader in jewellery designs, also introduced a collection for men, called the “Harimau Malaya” in August last year.
More than 25 designs of tourmaline and diamond men’s rings hit the market priced affordably at around RM1,000.
“We listen to what our customers want. Their wishes are our main priority. That’s why the ‘Harimau Malaya’ set is such a hit. The lustrous silvery-white metal palladium, set with diamonds and tourmaline, make the rings attractive and they have become some of our best sellers,” said Zaruddin.
Credit should be given to its seven-member team designers who travel to Hong Kong, Dubai, Milan, Europe and the US just to study and check on the latest jewellery designs.
“As a leading jeweller, it’s important for Habib to keep abreast of and even move ahead of its competitors. We also take pride in giving free advice to our customers on how to take care of our products, to be as fashionable as competitors and study consumer behaviour from time to time.
“We also provide free designing services for our customers. Sometimes customers take pride in designing their own jewellery. We try to assist them in the best possible way by giving them free designing services,” he said.
Founded in 1958, Habib was first established as M.A Habib Mohamed by Datuk Habib Mohamed Abdul Latif on Penang’s Pitt Street, also popularly known as the island’s “Jewellers’ Corner.”
Today, under the helm of the founder’s son, Datuk Meer Sadik Habib, the company has evolved from its humble beginnings to become Habib Corporation Bhd and Malaysia’s first listed jeweller, going public in 1998.
It has also established partnerships with renowned international brands such as Hearts on Fire diamonds and with famous hand-finished jewellery maker Pandora of Denmark in 2011. Over the last 26 years, Habib Group has expanded its business to emerge as a fully integrated jeweller involved in wholesaling, retailing, manufacturing, marketing and franchising.
In fact, it has successfully diversified into other ventures. The company has another jewellery line under the Chantique brand, an Islamic pawnbroking arm under Ar-Rahnu Time Zone Sdn Bhd, and the Habib Hotel, the group’s first venture out of the jewellery industry.
“We decided to go into pawnbroking because there are no Islamic pawn shops that accept diamonds and gemstones. At Ar-Rahnu, we accept these plus gold. We started our first operations in Jalan Ampang three years ago and now we have branches in Penang, Kuantan, Subang Jaya, Gombak and Sungai Buloh,” he said.
The new pride and joy of the Habib portfolio is Habib Hotel. With 32 guest rooms, the hotel was set up last year in Kota Baru and has already become a popular choice for business and leisure travellers looking for comfort and service.
According to Mohd Zaruddin, Habib Jewels now has 32 branches with a staff strength of 1,000. By the end of this year, the company plans to open two more shops in Kuantan and Seremban.
They will be Habib’s first outlet in Kuantan and the second in Seremban. The first Seremban outlet has attracted more than 30,000 customers since it opened last month, Mohd Zaruddin added.
“This will be a challenging year for us, especially with the implementation of GST in 2015. Our overseas customers are still enjoying tax exemptions when they buy jewelleryin Malaysia. We foresee more foreign customers buying jewellery this year,” he said.
Mohd Zaruddin observed Habib’s customers have different preferences when it comes to jewellery.
“The elderly Malay customers still prefer floral and chunky designs while the Chinese like theirs simple and elegant. Indians love thick, big, bold and flashy gemstones and heavy pendants. The middle-aged corporate clients are generally young at heart while the young modern career women want their designs simple and fashionable. So we try to please all of them and that’s a tall order,” he said.
Zaruddin recalled those days; the jewellers will give advice to their patrons on what to buy. These days, it’s the other way around.
“Times have changed and buying patterns among our customers have changed too,” he said.
Habib has been ranked amongst the Top 5 Asia brands in the retail jewellery category in the Campaign Asia Pacific and TNS’ Asia’s Top 1,000 Brands rankings. It has also achieved numerous awards, including the Brand Laureate Award, Reader’s Digest Trusted Brands Awards, Malaysian Retail Association Award as well as the Fair Price Award.
“Habib is still ahead of its peers when it comes to products. This is because of their vast collection of gold jewellery, coloured gemstones and various pearls of exquisite designs, superior quality and distinctive innovation.
“We aspire to stay ahead by heading our research and development and continue to identify market trends as well work closely with other international designers to give exquisite and world-class jewellery to our customers. How else could we keep up with our reputation as the most successful manufacturing jeweller of world-class standing?” said Zaruddin who has a sharp eye for jewellery.