Cotton On Group: 74 stores in Singapore, and counting

The refurbished Cotton On store at Wisma Atria reopened last month. It now has a more open store frontage.
The refurbished Cotton On store at Wisma Atria reopened last month. It now has a more open store frontage.PHOTO: COTTON ON GROUP

Australian retail company Cotton On Group is eyeing expansion in Singapore amid optimism over sales growth this year.

Since its foray into Singapore in 2007, the retailer has built up its operations aggressively, and it now runs 74 stores across six brands - Cotton On, Cotton On Kids, Cotton On Body, Typo, Rubi Shoes and Factorie - in various malls.

"When we look at 2016, we are well positioned to deliver 20 per cent growth in Singapore in sales, and that is our goal in the next few years - going after that 20 per cent mark," its Asia country manager, Mr Abdoulaye Diaw, told The Straits Times in an interview recently.

Globally, the company plans to garner total sales of A$1.8 billion (S$1.8 billion) this year from its more than 1,300 stores in 17 countries. Mr Diaw said Cotton On Group is looking at bumping up the number of stores to 2,000 in the next three years.

In Singapore, its expansion strategy is focused on ramping up its presence within malls where it already has outlets. For example, it moved the Cotton On outlet to a larger 600 sq m store in City Square Mall in March, and opened a new concept Rubi store at its old location.

The larger store allowed the company to expand its women's and men's offerings, and introduce the Cotton On Body brand to City Square Mall. It also plans to open Cotton On Kids there at the end of July.

Mr Diaw said the company is looking out for opportunities to grow in malls such as VivoCity and those in Orchard Road. It now has four stores at VivoCity and 11 stores in the Orchard area.

Another way to drive growth is to refurbish and "optimise" its current stores. The Cotton On outlet at Wisma Atria was reopened last month after it received a new coat of paint, new fixtures and lighting, and it now has a more open store frontage. "Major works" will be carried out to upgrade its stores at VivoCity and Parkway Parade.

Cotton On Group's expansion runs counter to the challenges that continue to dog the retail industry, forcing retailers to shutter stores.

"We have no plans on sizing down or closing our stores... what made us successful is to be absolutely in tune with what customers want. They want a product that's trend-right and at the right price, and they want it fast," Mr Diaw noted.

Its vertically integrated business model - from design to manufacturing and distribution - allows products to be delivered to stores daily.

Cotton On Group has eight distribution centres: two in Australia, and one each in New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Africa, Singapore, Brazil and the United States. It is due to open one in Malaysia this year.

The company hopes to further increase its online engagement after investing "multi-million dollars" to improve its online platform in 2014.

"Our focus now is finding ways to increase our database and raise awareness of our online business," Mr Diaw said. Cotton On Group has about 1,700 employees in Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2016, with the headline 'Cotton On Group: 74 stores in Singapore, and counting'. Print Edition | Subscribe