Retail’s updated industry transformation map focuses on Singapore brands, innovation, talent

Paige Lim
Published Fri, Oct 7, 2022 · 05:00 PM

SINGAPORE’S updated industry transformation map (ITM) for the retail sector will help Singapore brands go abroad, encourage new experiential concepts, position the country as a lifestyle hub for global brands, and groom local talent for quality jobs.

The Retail ITM 2025 – one of 23 sectoral ITMs to be refreshed – was launched on Friday (Oct 7) at the official opening of home-grown furniture brand Castlery’s flagship store at Liat Towers.

“This refreshed roadmap will arm the sector with what it needs to meet the accelerated changes brought about by Covid-19,” said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling, who was speaking at the opening.

“It spells out four key strategies which aims to create a vibrant and globally-competitive retail ecosystem that excites Singaporeans and global consumers.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted a “quest” for unique consumer experiences and a shift towards digital-first business models and omni-channel retail, said Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG) in a press statement.

With an increase in middle-class consumers in the region, as well as government and private sector efforts to drive sector rejuvenation and vibrancy, retail is “poised to see further growth and transformation”, EnterpriseSG added.

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The ITM has four main strategies. First is helping Singapore brands go abroad. EnterpriseSG will work with more e-commerce platforms to give local brands access to customers and markets in South-east Asia and beyond. The agency will also partner the Singapore Tourism Board to promote local brands overseas.

Second, stores will get support to innovate and offer new or enhanced experiences. For instance, Castlery’s 24,000-square-foot flagship store includes a partnership space where the brand can collaborate with other local businesses as well as organise talks, workshops and other activities.

The furniture company’s first partner is eco-conscious lifestyle brand reBynd by Bynd Artisan, which offers an experiential gifting concept with customised and personalised leather and paper gifts.

Trends such as social commerce and live-selling, wellness and sustainability-related products and services are part of the evolving retail scene, noted Low. “Retailers that are nimble and quick to adapt their business models and products to meet customers’ demands will stay ahead of the game,” she said.

To help retailers capture opportunities in the “conscious consumer” market, EnterpriseSG will work with trade associations and chambers, such as the Singapore Furniture Industries Council and Singapore Fashion Council, to support companies in creating sustainable products and pursuing sustainable business models.

Third, the ITM aims to strengthen Singapore’s position as a vibrant lifestyle hub and attract global brands. Fostering global and local brand collaborations is one way to bring global players into the local ecosystem, with EnterpriseSG having facilitated such tie-ups.

Finally, companies will get more help to upskill and reskill workers in emerging retail roles such as digital marketers, data analysts, brand managers and product designers, with training programmes for such skills.

For example, two Career Conversion Programmes for the retail sector and furniture sub-sector have been revamped to help mid-career individuals convert their skills and move into new occupations within the industry.

Manpower disruptions brought about by the “volatile global environment” have made it vital for Singapore to build a strong and resilient workforce core, Low said. “By strengthening local hires and improving productivity through business transformation, companies can better safeguard against unpredictable manpower disruptions,” she added.

The Retail ITM was introduced in 2016 by EnterpriseSG in partnership with industry players, unions and other government agencies. Then, the ITM focused largely on the adoption of digitalisation and automation to improve productivity and reduce reliance on manpower.

Over 7,000 retail small and medium-sized enterprises embarked on productivity improvement projects from 2018 to 2021, according to EnterpriseSG.

As of 2021, nine in 10 retail SMEs have adopted at least one digital solution. This includes implementing customer relationship management systems, accounting and HR management systems, as well as using inventory management systems to automate back-end logistics operations.

Other firms have taken to e-commerce to increase and diversify revenue streams. Compared with pre-Covid-19, online sales have more than doubled as a share of total retail sales, from about 7 per cent in 2019 to 16 per cent in 2021.



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