Bugis Street shops turn to virtual store

Mr Victor Shi (above), owner of men's shoes and clothing company Jetsetters, has three shops in Bugis Street (left) and recently started selling products on the online store run by Bugis Street Online, a subsidiary of the Bugis Street management.
Mr Victor Shi (above), owner of men's shoes and clothing company Jetsetters, has three shops in Bugis Street (left) and recently started selling products on the online store run by Bugis Street Online, a subsidiary of the Bugis Street management.ST PHOTOS: CHEW SENG KIM
Mr Victor Shi (above), owner of men's shoes and clothing company Jetsetters, has three shops in Bugis Street (left) and recently started selling products on the online store run by Bugis Street Online, a subsidiary of the Bugis Street management.
Mr Victor Shi (above), owner of men's shoes and clothing company Jetsetters, has three shops in Bugis Street (left) and recently started selling products on the online store run by Bugis Street Online, a subsidiary of the Bugis Street management.ST PHOTOS: CHEW SENG KIM

Two-thirds of 300 or so tenants sign up following drop in sales

APPAREL from hundreds of shops in Bugis Street will soon be available online.

Two-thirds of the 300 or so tenants in the shopping street have signed up to sell their products in that space. The virtual store is run by Bugis Street Online, a subsidiary of the Bugis Street management.

It says that over $500,000 has been sunk into this Web platform so far, which aims to eventually bring most of the shopping street's small retailers on board. It will be launched officially by September.

Explained Mr Ivan Loh, 35, the chief executive of Bugis Street Online: "It is the logical and necessary thing to do to ensure the sustainability of our tenants. We have to change with the times."

Bugis Street, known for its affordable clothing, attracts shoppers ranging from teenagers to working adults in their early 30s, as well as tourists.

But retailers say that in the past two years, foot traffic there has dropped by about 20 per cent.

Mr Tony Huang, 33, who runs women's apparel company Cupid Apparel, which has four stores in Bugis Street, said: "In the past two years, competition from online shops and new shopping malls has affected our sales by about 10 to 15 per cent. We are focusing on online expansion now."

An online presence also saved on manpower and rental, he noted.

Bugis Street Online handles the logistics of running the Web platform for its retailers. It also covers the costs of shipping. The shops pay commission fees to the management when they make online sales.

Since February, Cupid Apparel has put up more than 40 products on the online store. It gets one to two orders daily.

Online sales have not picked up yet for Mr Victor Shi, 26, the owner of men's shoes and clothing company Jetsetters, which has three stores in Bugis Street.

Since last month, he has put up fewer than 20 types of men's shoes for sale online, and has sold just one pair so far. Mr Shi said: "It has been quite slow, but we will try to publicise it on Facebook. It is still a good form of expansion that is low-cost. It helps build our brand image."

And Ms Patricia Ng, 67, who runs Clover Fashion which sells women's clothing and accessories, is in the process of making her wares available online. She said: "I am computer illiterate and struggle with the Internet, but I have to learn to keep up with the young ones."

Some shoppers are happy with the added convenience that this Web initiative will bring.

Ms Kellin Sim, 17, an Institute of Technical Education student, said: "I prefer to go to shops so that I can see the quality of what I am buying. But now I can check out what they have online first before personally going down to have a look at the item. It will help save time."

cherylw@sph.com.sg