Audio House takes cashless route

Audio House managing director Alvin Lee at the store in Bendemeer Road, which is the retailer's only outlet left. He believes the company is the first local consumer electronics retailer to go fully cashless, and said the move is expected to help it
Audio House managing director Alvin Lee at the store in Bendemeer Road, which is the retailer's only outlet left. He believes the company is the first local consumer electronics retailer to go fully cashless, and said the move is expected to help it buck retail sector headwinds.ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Electronics retailer hopes new system will cut operating costs

As cashless payments continue to pick up steam in Singapore, home-grown consumer electronics retailer Audio House is moving ahead of the curve by implementing a fully cashless payment system.

From Saturday, its store in Bendemeer Road will operate without any cashier counters. Instead, customers will have to scan a QR code of the product they want to purchase, using their smartphones and any QR code scanner app, which will then take them to Audio House's e-commerce platform to complete their payment.

Payment is done via credit cards, or with in-house credits that can be topped up at the store using cash. Customers can opt for home delivery or pickup on the spot.

Audio House managing director Alvin Lee believes the company is the first local consumer electronics retailer to go fully cashless.

He said the move is expected to save Audio House 20 per cent in operating costs, as well as help it buck retail sector headwinds.

"The retail business is becoming a sunset industry," he said.

CUSTOMER-ORIENTED

We have enough staff to help older customers who might not be in tune with this cashless system... Our purpose is to help customers get what they want.

MR ALVIN LEE, managing director of Audio House, on assisting those who still wish to pay by cash at the store.

Audio House closed its flagship store in Liang Court in August last year and downsized to just one outlet in Bendemeer Road - reducing its retail space from 50,000 sq ft to the current 15,000 sq ft.

"Many people, including our suppliers, thought we were going to close down soon," Mr Lee acknowledged. He felt the company had to do something radical to curb the downtrend, resulting in the move to a full cashless payment system.

He said the planning for cashless payments actually started three years ago, when the company invested in an integrated e-commerce platform that enables real-time stock availability, as well as delivery, price and promotion management.

In all, Audio House invested $500,000 in the platform, which integrates with its new cashless payment system.

"I don't know if I have another three years (of sustaining the business). But I know if I don't make any changes, I certainly would not have another three years," Mr Lee said.

Pointing to how online retailers are disrupting the retail scene, and how young consumers prefer to shop online, he said: "Our competitors are very different now. We are competing against online retailers like Amazon, Alibaba and Taobao."

But ultimately, customers just want cheaper prices, he said. And this cashless payment move means Audio House will be able to pass on the cost savings to its customers.

For customers who still want to pay by cash, Audio House's retail staff at the store will help customers create an account to convert cash into credits for purchasing items.

"We have enough staff to help older customers who might not be in tune with this cashless system," Mr Lee said.

He added that this is because Audio House's staff will be freed up from inventory, cashier and other duties to provide walk-in customers with buying advice and product demonstrations.

"Our purpose is to help customers get what they want," he said, adding that once this is done properly, sales will naturally follow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2017, with the headline 'Audio House takes cashless route'. Print Edition | Subscribe