Courts planning $10m revamp of 7 Singapore outlets

Mr Ben Tan believes the group's strong showing in the last financial year gives it a good base to work from. As competition heats up, Courts has to keep its focus on its customers, he said.
Mr Ben Tan believes the group's strong showing in the last financial year gives it a good base to work from. As competition heats up, Courts has to keep its focus on its customers, he said.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Retailer to also boost services, in-store experiences, online offerings, says new country CEO

Electrical, IT and furniture retailer Courts Asia is planning a $10 million revamp of seven of its 15 outlets here, starting with an overhaul of its flagship megastore in Tampines.

The firm's new country chief executive, Mr Ben Tan, told The Straits Times of the plans after Courts Asia in June unveiled stable financial results.

He said that enhanced in-store experiences, online offerings and an increased focus on services are also in the pipeline, as the company seeks to differentiate itself in a highly competitive retail landscape.

"The market's soft. It has not crumbled, but it's definitely not bullish," said Mr Tan. "Basically, as retailers, we have to make sure we focus on our customers."

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He anticipates a major renovation of the megastore to be completed by the fourth quarter of this year, with other outlets to be redone by next March. Courts' stores in Singapore include branches in Ang Mo Kio, Toa Payoh and Clementi.

Mr Tan believes in striking while the iron is hot. "We're starting from a good base," he said, citing its strong showing for the year ended March 31. Cash and bank balances stood at $98.7 million as at that date.

The group posted a net profit of $23.7 million , up from a restated net profit of $6.8 million a year earlier.

Revenue from the Singapore market makes up about two-thirds of Courts Asia's top line.

Alongside the store rejuvenation, Courts (Singapore) will also unveil a new website by the end of the year .

The management said that it has realised that it needs stronger online platforms, after its website struggled to keep up with customer traffic during online promotional events such as Cyber Monday.

But inventory and delivery services will be able to meet the strain, he said. "Our logistics capability is very strong."

Mr Tan added that the retailer is in a "good position" to move into omni-channel sales, but has to get cracking.

He has set a goal for online revenue to reach 15 per cent over the next decade, up from between 2 per cent and 3 per cent now.

Another area that Mr Tan is targeting in his spring-cleaning of the company is an emphasis on services, with new credit packages part of his revamp plans.

In the 12 months to March, earned service charges made up 11.3 per cent of the turnover, while 5.7 per cent of revenue came from providing services such as cleaning, installation, repairs and warranties.

Mr Tan, who took over Courts (Singapore) in April this year, had previously been head of Challenger subsidiary Andios and chief operating officer of Challenger Technologies (Singapore).

Retail marketing expert Lynda Wee told The Straits Times that reinventing the in-store experience is a savvy strategy for bricks-and-mortar stores to stay competitive.

"'Order-getting' is about arousing customers' desires to buy via emotions and brand activation," said Dr Wee, who runs her own consultancy and is also adjunct associate professor at Nanyang Technological University's Nanyang Business School. "Hence, the stores can be a marketing and branding channel."

She suggested that retailers "blend offline and online seamlessly" to suit how customers use their mobile devices and social media.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2017, with the headline 'Courts planning $10m revamp of 7 S'pore outlets'. Print Edition | Subscribe