Established in 1948, Poh Heng Jewellery, along with Lee Hwa, is one of the most prominent family-owned jewellery businesses in Singapore and is now into its third generation. We speak with the founder, the late Mr Chng Tok Ngam’s granddaughter, 39 year old Pamela Seow, who helms the product and marketing departments, on how her family business has evolved and how consumer trends have changed over the decades.
SGLS: Did you always aspire to join the family business? How do you handle family conflict in the workplace?
Pamela: Having grown up with regular visits to Poh Heng Jewellery’s stores almost every weekend, I’d always appreciated the brand and its jewellery. What truly inspired me to join the brand eventually, was seeing how much it had grown and the potential it had.
Disagreements arise in all working environments. Naturally, this was something I occasionally experienced when I worked with my family as well. Regardless of the disagreements, we always knew that we were working towards a common goal, for the betterment of the brand. This helped us focus on the important things.
SGLS: What are some new jewellery design trends? Do you get to be part of the process in developing them?
Pamela: I helm both the product and marketing teams. This is an exciting portfolio that leverages my interest in product trends and development.
Design trends are cyclical: sometimes old is new. We’ve seen trends come and go, and with gold prices at an all-time high right now, daintier pieces that can be stacked and layered are popular.
Where wedding jewellery designs are concerned, we recognise that the brides of today ‘marry’ modern-day trends with tradition. Just as, Chinese, Indian and Malay traditional wedding costumes have taken on a more sleek, modern look, so has our jewellery. We know that most brides look for pieces they can still wear after their wedding day, and we have thus translated traditional motifs with modern touches suitable for both bridal and everyday wear.
SGLS: There is an urban legend that family businesses rarely survive the third generation. Do you think this is true?
Pamela: Poh Heng Jewellery is more than a family business. As Singapore’s leading gold jeweller for 70 years, we take pride in the memories and significance that our pieces offer our customers. Our brand has been built on the foundation of the trust we have established with Singaporeans, and this is something that will continue to endure.
SGLS: Do you reckon the pandemic has altered purchase patterns in your industry?
Pamela: The pandemic has affected everyone, the jewellery industry included. Expectedly, consumers tightened their belts when the pandemic hit. News of retail sales plunging were constantly in the news and spending on luxury items was curbed.
In the coming months, we are hopeful for the recovery for retail. Potential trends we have seen contributing to the growth of the industry overseas include phenomena like revenge buying attributable to repressed spending during the pandemic, as well as the availability of more disposable income to spend on jewellery given the lack of travel.
SGLS: Who inspires you in business and in life?
Pamela: My mother inspires me. Being in the business as well, my mother was the one who inspired my love for jewellery from the start. She would purchase a piece of jewellery to commemorate every one of my milestones, even a small one! When I was a child, she would also safe-keep the jewellery for me. Chinese New Year being my only opportunity to don the intricate jewellery pieces made me look forward to the festive occasion that much more.
Interview by Angela May Tan, Column Editor & Writer
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