Technology driving change in retail landscape, say industry players

The retail landscape is at an inflection point, and consolidations can be expected here following a global trend, said industry players at the Singapore Retail Industry Conference on Thursday. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
The retail landscape is at an inflection point, and consolidations can be expected here following a global trend, said industry players at the Singapore Retail Industry Conference on Thursday. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The retail landscape is at an inflection point, and consolidations can be expected here following a global trend, said industry players at the Singapore Retail Industry Conference on Thursday.

"For most retailers, the space race is now over," Dr Alan Treadgold, board member of the Oxford Institute of Retail Management, told about 200 retailers in a presentation mapping the impact of technology on the industry.

"In a Western European and North American perspective, the rush to accumulate property, to bank up land, to develop more stores has finished. A lot of retailers - the grocery category for example - are now talking very explicitly about closing stores and not opening them," said Dr Treadgold.

Singapore Retailers Association vice president R Dhinakaran, believes that we may see the same trend here. Many listed companies have been losing money in their Singapore operations, which will make them rethink how they run their business, he said.

"With the continuous losses on everybody's balance sheets... naturally, consolidations will take place. They will try to close (their shops) at marginal locations, such as outskirt malls and far-off malls where the yield in sales and profit are marginal, and operate only profitable locations," Mr Dhinakaran told reporters on the sidelines of the event at Suntec Convention Centre.

"In Singapore there are so many shopping malls, it has to change in the coming years. A lot of the malls may have to find a new way to engage retailers," he added.

In an opening speech at the conference, Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck emphasised that retailers must keep adapting to stay in the game.

"The retail industry is a challenging and highly competitive industry," said Mr Teo. "The pace of technological change is so fast that what is considered a game-changer today can become the norm in just a few years."

Mr Teo also flagged a report from research firm Euromonitor that found consumers here increased their Internet spending by 12 per cent from 2012 to 2013, to generate value sales of S$960 million.