Retail in Asia


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Singapore Retailers Association

Source : Singapore Retailers Association

In partnership with eTail Asia 2022, Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview David Lee Director of Talent Development at the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) and convenorship for eCommerce Survey Global ISO. Together we discussed how the SRA empowers local retailers and the key retail trends retailers should watch in 2022.


RiA: Can you walk us through your role within the SRA?

Source : Singapore Retailers Association

David: Together with the Talent Development Team, we work with industry-leading partners for joint programs in local learning journeys and overseas study mission trips for SRA members. We also curate and co-develop training curriculum for imparting the latest and greatest new skills and knowledge of the retail industry and we recruit the best trainers of domain expertise and train-the-trainer. Last but not least, we do joint marketing with government agencies, SRA members’ companies to reach out IHL interns and mid-career switches for upskilling.

RiA: According to e-Conomy SEA 2021 by Google, Temasek and Bain, 1 in 3 SEA merchants believe they would not have survived COVID-19 without digital platforms. What’s the level of digital maturity of Singapore’s retailers? How have you supported your members in their digital transformation journey?

David: In respect to members seeking our support, we tend to see three different types of digital maturity from the perspective of mental readiness:

Don’t know – Singapore retailers, in these two years of the new norm of digital consumerism, are exposed to various digital orientation, training, trial, pilot run, and implementation at a different scale.

Dare not – Digital transformation calls for major changes to current company structure, systems, processes, reward systems, etc. For example, peak sales day may generate 2 months to half years of sales. The traditional company production line will not ramp up in time to produce & deliver. Neither is it wise to stock up for a single peak sales (which may not happen). This calls for a new “collaborative supply chain” by looking out for another twenty production houses if the sales ramp up. There’ll be another resistance to multi-sourcing due to Quality Control, formula/ recipes sharing, etc.

Don’t want to – Traditional retail business comes with predictable work hours, wage payout & rewards, hiring & training. If the retailer decides to go to eMarketplace, they need to be ready for odd hours in mid-night flash sales, small window of opportunity to replace another brand when they’re approached by eMarketplace manager at 11.55 pm or over Saturday/ Sunday, to take up a slot of the offer for next day promotion.

RiA: It is interesting to see the rise of homegrown brands in Asia Pacific (we are amplifying them in our new UPSTARTS Voices). Do you have programs designed specifically for emerging brands or retail startups?

David: The SRA Talent & Development team aims to support these emerging brands and retail startups through training programs where they learn how to scale up from small state city to regional businesses. The SRA is working with various partners for the Global Ready Talent Program and we provide subsidized training, salary, allowance for overseas placement, etc.

RiA: Buy Now Pay Later, unmanned stores, omnichannel, and what everyone is talking about – the Metaverse – what are the key retail trends to watch in Singapore in 2022?

David: I think the new trend will be Unified Commerce (O2O). I am also working with partners on Metaverse & NFT. The exciting part is blockchain that enables authentic, unique and monetizable “virtual items”.

Retailers should watch the current labour shortage, and the opening of markets to tourists and business travellers. We have anticipated this trend and the SRA talent development team is bringing a new training program for Shared Service Business Transformation to enhance critical core skills of SRA retailers members >84,000 workers in 14,000 local and overseas stores to engage tourists and global-ready managerial talents for overseas expansion.

RiA: Besides the pandemic-related new norms, what other areas do retailers need to be aware of from a talent development perspective?

David: The SRA talent and development team is collaborating with global consultancy leaders for the retailer’s C-suite to strategize geopolitical disruptive supply chain for the retail footprint and enhance HR business planning capability for competency atlas, deconstruct and construct of job architecture and levelling, HR leadership for digital and business transformation, hybrid work employee experience, fair pay to optimize rewards and talent strategy.

RiA: You will join eTail Asia 2022 where you will be moderating a panel focused on “Tactics you need for continued growth in a crowded competitive market”. What are your top 3 recommendations?

David: My 3 recommendations are:

  • Follow the new norm of consumerism and be ahead of the trend
  • Digital transform everything and get every department of your organisation involved: do not sort digital commerce, digital marketing department; etc as standalone functions. Even HR needs to be future-ready with AI social (media) sourcing for talent, managing performance and training.
  • The next buzz word will be Sustainability. Young consumers are in favour of brands who are eco-friendly.

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RiA: What are the key topics you are keen to listen to and why is eTail a must not miss event?

David: I look forward to further insights about the following topics:

  • Tactics you need for continued growth in a crowded competitive market – How can you make the right moves to position your business for innovation and success as retail rebounds?
  • How can you de-silo your frontend and backend solutions into one interconnected, cross-channel ecosystem that drives increased convenience for your customers and merchants?
  • “High Touch” Strategy in a “High Tech” World

Register for eTail Asia 2022 HERE