'Stay relevant through new business strategies'

Madam Joanne Oglimen (left) watching her seven-month-old daughter Nathalia Yambao playing on a swing, supervised by gym coaches at the Bove megastore in Suntec City yesterday. Besides selling maternity wear and baby products, the store has play areas
Madam Joanne Oglimen (left) watching her seven-month-old daughter Nathalia Yambao playing on a swing, supervised by gym coaches at the Bove megastore in Suntec City yesterday. Besides selling maternity wear and baby products, the store has play areas, a spa offering pre- and post-natal massage for mothers and babies, and rooms for birthday parties.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Retailers should constantly explore and experiment with new business strategies to stay relevant, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann yesterday.

She was speaking at the official opening of Bove, a "parenthood megastore" by local retail chain Spring Maternity and Baby.

The company's five existing stores were combined into a megastore of 15,000 sq ft - roughly the area of an Olympic-size swimming pool - in Suntec City shopping mall.

Ms Sim said the setting up of the megastore was aligned with the Government's retail industry transformation map, which encourages innovative business formats and technology, so as to stay competitive.

She said Bove's approach is to go beyond maternity wear, to offer more products and create "a space for interaction with its pregnant customers and build communities".

On top of selling maternity wear and baby products, the store has play areas, a spa offering pre- and post-natal massage for mothers and babies, community events such as parenting workshops, and rooms for birthday parties.

Services to be added later this year include an infant care centre, a family-friendly cafe with baby high chairs, and robots that help customers find what they need.

Spring Maternity chairman Tey Soon Heng said a key difference about the megastore is the "social and community angle", which he hopes will help to retain customers.

At Bove, too, were about a dozen retailers taking part in a "learning journey" held by enterprise development agency Spring Singapore.

They noted that it can be challenging to get buy-in from staff to learn new skills and modify operations, but agreed it was vital to evolve to meet customers' changing needs.

Said Mr Sherwin Siregar, chief executive of Atlas Sound & Vision, which distributes audio-visual equipment: "We knew that our customers' needs have changed, so we thought of how to continue to be relevant and be the retailer of choice for them." The company has since worked to engage customers on various platforms, including its online store and social media.

Ms M.J. Kim, a mother in her mid-30s, welcomed Bove's variety of services. Said the owner of an online business: "It's good to have a one-stop place where I can shop while my kid can play."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2017, with the headline ''Stay relevant through new business strategies''. Print Edition | Subscribe