Kampong Glam to undergo digital makeover under plan to boost retail sector

(From left) Ms Sherry See, owner of Utopia Apparels, Mr Saeid Labbafi, chairman of One Kampung Gelam, and Mr Mohd Zain Said, centre director @ SMCCI, plan to transform Kampong Glam.
(From left) Ms Sherry See, owner of Utopia Apparels, Mr Saeid Labbafi, chairman of One Kampung Gelam, and Mr Mohd Zain Said, centre director @ SMCCI, plan to transform Kampong Glam.ST PHOTO: MOHD KHALID BABA

SINGAPORE - Merchants in Kampong Glam, a Malay heritage site in Arab Street, will be undergoing a digital makeover as part of the Government's plan to transform the retail sector.

The first of such an initiative by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the project could see Wi-Fi hot spots dotting the shopping belt and merchants adopting e-commerce strategies or using data analytics to provide personalised promotions to consumers.

"When completed, it would be an interesting showcase that interweaves tradition and digital technologies," said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim in announcing the move on Friday (Nov 3).

Kampong Glam's makeover will complement the retail Industry Development Plan (IDP), also announced on Friday.

It is the second of many such blueprints containing checklists and approved technology packages to help lift sectors where innovation has been lagging. The first IDP for the logistics sector was announced by IMDA on Wednesday.

To complete Kampong Glam's makeover, IMDA and Spring have signed a memorandum of intent with the Singapore Malay Chambers of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI) and One Kampong Glam business association.

They will jointly identify technologies that could lift the appeal of the area by creating a richer and more immersive retail experience. The plan is expected to be ready in three months, and the revamp is likely to start in the second half of next year.

Merchants say the move is critical amid the rising popularity of online shopping.

Ms Sherry See, owner of Utopia Apparels in Bussorah Street, said the number of visitors to Kampong Glam has declined by up to 40 per cent over the last 10 years.

 

"Some fabric shops have also closed down due to poor business," she said, noting that Kampong Glam merchants need help to make them more "discoverable" via an online directory, for instance.

"Many shoppers do not venture beyond Arab Street or Haji Lane," she added.

Mr Mohd Zain Said, SMCCI's SME centre director, said small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) also need to automate to do more with fewer staff. "It's the only way to meet the new demand and expectation of customers," he said.