Plan to transform retail sector launched

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say "trying on" clothes using a device outside Island Shop at Clarke Quay yesterday. Mr Lim had launched a manpower plan to help retailers attract talent and increase productivity.
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say "trying on" clothes using a device outside Island Shop at Clarke Quay yesterday. Mr Lim had launched a manpower plan to help retailers attract talent and increase productivity.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

It will help businesses face challenges, Swee Say says as he warns of slower job growth

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say yesterday warned that job growth here will be "significantly less" over the next five years than the 3 per cent to 4 per cent seen annually in recent years.

With the economy driven by productivity, innovation and efforts to reduce manpower, Mr Lim yesterday launched a plan to drive the transformation of the retail sector, which faces challenges such as e-commerce, manpower shortages and high business costs.

The manpower plan consists of four initiatives to help retailers attract talent, maximise employee capability and increase productivity.

Mr Lim told an audience at Clarke Quay: "Quantity of manpower cannot be the driving force behind your growth. You have to go for quality of manpower, quality of operation, quality of efficiency."

The first initiative is encouraging business remodelling and job redesign. A study of these areas will be done by Spring Singapore, the agency responsible for helping local enterprises to grow.

Mr Lim said the findings will serve as a "best practices" guide.

One company that transformed itself ahead of most of its competitors is Decks, the brand owner of Surfers Paradise and Island shops.

The company, which has six retail stores in Singapore, implemented technology to cut time spent on repetitive activities from 2,520 hours to 150.

Managing director Kelvyn Chee introduced radio frequency indentification at his company's warehouse to simplify labour-intensive tasks like inventory management.

While he acknowledged that the cost of implementing such technology - about $85,000 after government grants - may be steep, he said it is a worthwhile investment.

"Staff usually take about 40 per cent of their time to do tasks like stocktaking, replenishment of stock, cashiering. Now they can spend the time on customers."

Mr Chee is also launching a cashier-less system that will mean just one employee is needed per shift. The Island Shop outlet in The Central at Clarke Quay even has a "trying out" device that lets shoppers click on buttons to superimpose clothes on their image.

Other initiatives under the plan are enhancing human resources capabilities and benefits, strengthening the transition from school to employment in the retail industry and developing programmes to address future skills needs. The plan is an initiative of Spring Singapore and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency .

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2015, with the headline 'Plan to transform retail sector launched'. Print Edition | Subscribe