BHG opens new store in Jurong

BHG Singapore's managing director Katsuharu Inamoto (above) at its Bugis Junction outlet; and its new Jurong Point store (left).
BHG Singapore's managing director Katsuharu Inamoto at its Bugis Junction outlet; and its new Jurong Point store.PHOTOS: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES, BHG SINGAPORE
BHG Singapore's managing director Katsuharu Inamoto (above) at its Bugis Junction outlet; and its new Jurong Point store (left).
BHG Singapore's managing director Katsuharu Inamoto at its Bugis Junction outlet; and its new Jurong Point store.PHOTOS: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES, BHG SINGAPORE

Seventh and newest outlet of the department store will also have new brands

Department store BHG will open its seventh and newest store at Jurong Point tomorrow and the 49,000 sq ft store features an easy-to-shop interior with wide aisles and different visual and merchandising concepts on each level.

The store opening will also coincide with BHG's introduction of new brands such as American backpack brand Mi-Pac and Korean beauty brand Ladykin.

Even in a soft retail climate of high rents, lower retail spending and a 1.09 per cent fall in tourist numbers from 2013 to last year, BHG is doing all it can to stay fresh and relevant.

It plans to do so by updating its store layout, refreshing its merchandise mix every six months and holding in-store promotions and activities to attract customers.

The store at Jurong Point, for example, has brand identity counter concepts which allow vendors to display merchandise individually, as opposed to sharing the same nondescript shelf with other brands.

BHG Singapore's managing director, Mr Katsuharu Inamoto, says: "It looks plain if you put all the brands together. It's about marketing and attracting the shoppers. Shoppers will also be able to understand the brand better through the displays."

The 71-year-old says Singaporean shoppers here are very trend-savvy and have an eye for quality, so the store has to regularly update its merchandise to keep up.

"If we maintain the same merchandise for three years, we will die," says Mr Inamoto, who is married with two children. "Shoppers here are also concerned about quality and price. They have the eye to judge and they know what's in trend."

The new store occupies the two floors vacated by John Little earlier this year. It had been a tenant at Jurong Point for about 20 years.

BHG will also take over the third floor unit which was previously occupied by furniture and electrical products retailer Harvey Norman.

This gives the retailer more space to offer a wider assortment of merchandise across different product categories, says Mr Inamoto.

He says that opening a new store at Jurong Point, Singapore's largest suburban mall, was a no-brainer because it was a good opportunity to expand the brand's presence in the western part of Singapore.

"The mall has a unique tenant mix and lots of families go there. We've been looking for a good location in the west for a long time, but we didn't have a chance, so we grabbed it when John Little vacated."

He adds that a plus factor for opening a store at Jurong Point was the upcoming Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail and its potential for increased footfall in the area. The high-speed rail is scheduled to start operations in 2026 and the Singapore station will be at Jurong East.

Although shoppers no longer throng department stores now, he firmly believes that department stores are still relevant, as online shopping cannot replace the human interaction found in stores and fast- fashion retailers cannot offer the wide range of product categories that department stores can.

He declined to reveal sales revenue for BHG Singapore, but says the brand has maintained a low single- digit growth since last year and that the store's branch at Bugis Junction is doing well. This is because BHG shoppers still buy essential goods such as casual apparel and cosmetics, and that the store is not so hard hit by falling tourist numbers.

Mr Inamoto, who started with Seiyu Japan's buying division in 1968 and became Seiyu's Singapore managing director in 1998, says: "We have always catered to the middle- class Singaporean shopper since we first opened here 21 years ago."

BHG first opened here at Bugis Junction in 1995 as Seiyu Wing On Department Store, and was a joint venture between Japanese company Seiyu and Hong Kong company Wing On. When the venture ended in 1998, Seiyu took over all the stores, then located at Bugis Junction, Junction 8 and Lot 1.

In 2005, the stores were bought over by Chinese retail giant Beijing Hualian Group for $4 million and were renamed BHG.

Besides the Jurong Point store, BHG is in six other locations in Singapore, including at Century Square Shopping Centre and The Seletar Mall.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2016, with the headline 'BHG opens in Jurong'. Print Edition | Subscribe