The Sunday Times says

Get real about SG shopping

 People walking in front of shops along Orchard Road.
People walking in front of shops along Orchard Road. PHOTO: ST FILE

The possible foray of e-commerce giant Amazon into Singapore next year is welcome news for fans of online shopping. The rapid expansion of digital and mobile commerce is seen to be at the expense of local stores. But it need not be so. A growth in shopping is to be celebrated, and open platforms permit wider, borderless participation.

Unfortunately, 174-year-old home-grown department store John Little plans to close its doors by January. This should spur other brick-and-mortar stores to put fresh sparkle into their offerings. Given their overheads, it would be costly for them to engage in a price war with e-tailers. So, they should think differently to maintain the shine of Singapore-style shopping, a vital industry.

They can compete by beefing up service standards which online stores cannot match. The latter's promotions build product awareness and drive splurges (like Black Friday shopping) which real-world stores can exploit as well. The aim should be to keep shopping a lively, social activity, rather than a lonely, screen experience. "Real" stores could also offer specialised suites of products, including indigenous favourites. Surveys show most shoppers still favour browsing in person, especially when the experience of shopping and feasting is an important part of festivities.

A real-world ecosystem of shops could offer shared shopping concierges, coordinated delivery of bulky items and bundled - read real and attractive - discounts. They need to cross-promote and support one another more to outwit Amazon and others. Hyperlocal offerings could be another draw as no one knows a market better than its own native shops. Shopfronts are valuable assets, more value can be extracted from them.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 27, 2016, with the headline 'Get real about SG shopping'. Print Edition | Subscribe