Why It Matters

Make change your business

A couple taking a photo of themselves on Sept 30, 2015, in front of the HMV store at Marina Square before it closes its doors for the last time.
A couple taking a photo of themselves on Sept 30, 2015, in front of the HMV store at Marina Square before it closes its doors for the last time. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Last Wednesday, HMV shut its last Singapore store, going the way of several other music retailers here in recent years.

Its fall was inevitable, said retail experts, who pointed to piracy and the rise of digital platforms for music.

HMV was not short of advance notice. When it made its debut in Singapore in 1997, its 25,000 sq ft outlet at The Heeren was the largest music store here. Its floor space was then cut twice before the brand moved to a smaller unit at 313@somerset in 2011. That outlet shut in 2013.

HMV tinkered with several ideas recently, including setting up a deejay booth at its remaining Marina Square store so that customers could download music in-store.

But it was too little, too late.

While HMV is planning an expansion in the Middle East, its fate in Singapore highlights a deeper and more urgent need for businesses here to have their fingers on the market pulse, to know when the wind is changing and not be afraid to do what is necessary - even if it means putting their rice bowl in jeopardy.

Take the case of Kodak. In 1975, one employee invented the digital camera but was told, effectively, to shelve it. At that time, Kodak cornered about 90 per cent of film and camera sales in the United States - each digital camera sold would have eaten away at that.

When Kodak finally embraced digital, it was too late. It filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

The retail scene here is challenging. Competition is rife, rents are high and businesses grapple with a manpower shortage. They cannot rely merely on defensive moves like cost-cutting. They must think big, innovate and stay ahead of the curve.

Enterprise agency Spring Singapore launched a retail plan last month to help businesses with concept innovation. Companies, even the successful ones, should tap that, instead of sticking only to what got them into the winner's circle.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2015, with the headline 'Make change your business'. Print Edition | Subscribe