Retail experts think that food is the key to survival for department stores in Singapore. But they say that these one-stop-shops must also find a niche and stay nimble enough to evolve with ever-changing shopper preferences.
Retail segments mostly experienced drops in the last year. Estimated retail sales in August, excluding cars, fell 6.5 per cent compared with the same period last year. Sales for department stores dropped 3.9 per cent.
According to market research company Euromonitor, there are about 10 department store brands in Singapore, with a concentration of outlets along Orchard Road and a peppering of stores across the heartland.
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Each of them is grappling with wider issues such as falling tourism spending, a manpower shortage, a slowing economy, the rise of e-commerce as well as high operational costs.
Flagship fast-fashion stores are offering more variety and the spread of malls into the suburbs has chipped away at department stores anchoring the city malls. The good news is that experts say that there is still a place for department stores in Singapore. The bad news? They must evolve to survive.
Survival tips from retail experts
TANGS AT TANG PLAZA
Goh says that while Tangs offers a “very strong” range of electronics and household items, such products can be bought online easily. It should consider having a specially curated children and family department.
Dr Lynda Wee, an adjunct associate professor at Nanyang Business School, says Metro should “tweak the offerings at each outlet to match each mall’s customer profile,” and turn it into a Metro Grand, a luxury concept the department store used to have at its Lucky Plaza location in the 1980s.
Dr Seshan Ramaswami, associate professor of marketing education at Singapore Management University, says OG should evaluate its relevance to its future target clientele — current younger shoppers.
Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) president R. Dhinakaran says stores such as BHG need to integrate its brick- and-mortar presence with an online one “to survive and stay relevant”. BHG has no online store.
Every floor needs a cafe, says Steven Goh, executive director of the Orchard Road Business Association. “Robinsons’ weakness is that it does not have enough food offerings,” he says, adding that this fails to keep shoppers in the mall.
Julie Lim, 53, a supply chain manager in the oil and gas industry, finds that Isetan “is a bit slow” in introducing new brands. Bringing in more fashionable and trendy labels such as Australian womenswear brand Forever New would also cater to the millennials, says another woman.
More can be done to promote Takashimaya as a destination in Orchard Road by playing up its Japanese heritage, says Samuel Tan, course manager in retail management at Temasek Polytechnic.
(Source: Straits Times)