Dubai-based group behind Robinsons and Zara to refresh retail offerings

Mr Cann says having new concepts and new brands are ways to keep customers' money in Singapore.
Mr Cann says having new concepts and new brands are ways to keep customers' money in Singapore.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Efforts to draw more shoppers part of drive by its Asia group CEO; stores' revamp expected to boost profitability

Dubai-based conglomerate Al-Futtaim Group is embarking on a slate of moves to refresh the offerings at its stable of retail brands here, such as household names Robinsons department store and the Marks & Spencer chain.

The multi-faceted efforts to draw more shoppers are part of a drive by its Asia group chief executive, Mr Christophe Cann, who was appointed to the role in January to grow the company's business in the region.

"The strategy is to build a profitable long-term business, to bring new brands to the market and to keep the strength of the group which is quite diversified," said Mr Cann, at the Robinsons store at The Heeren.

The group's diversified retail portfolio also includes sports brands such as Royal Sporting House, Reebok, and fashion labels such as Zara, Pull and Bear, and Massimo Dutti.

For a start, it will inject $12 million to renovate Robinsons at Raffles City in phases over one year, starting in July. Upgrading plans are also afoot for Marks & Spencer stores at shopping malls - Parkway Parade, Paragon and Raffles City.

Shoppers will also be able to take a pit stop at a new 1,000 sq ft cafe at the Marks & Spencer outlet at Wheelock Place in Orchard Road, set to open in the third quarter.

"Having new concepts and new brands are ways to keep customers' money in Singapore... We need to give more reasons for customers to visit us, to stay longer in the store," said Singapore-based Mr Cann.

The group is also adding more food and beverage offerings at Robinsons at The Heeren, with a new restaurant by chef and TV personality Angela May due to open on level two of the store next month.

Mr Cann also flagged an upcoming outdoor F&B area at The Heeren - where T.G.I. Friday's outlet used to be - to be connected to level two of Robinsons via a bridge. The F&B area will be up and running in the third quarter.

Apart from culinary offerings, Al-Futtaim will be trying out new retail concepts, with the opening of a "sneakers bar" at Orchard Central later this year. The new store, spanning about 1,000 sq ft, will carry limited-edition footwear.

Mr Cann added that the Royal Sporting House outlet at VivoCity will also be given a makeover and will open next month.

"Sports is not just about products these days, it is about lifestyle. The new shop will look more fashionable and appeal to a younger crowd. We will also downsize on the number of brands, carrying only the best performing ones," he said.

This big revamp of its stores across various brands is expected to boost profitability.

For example, Mr Cann said Robinsons, which has three outlets here - at The Heeren, Raffles City and Jem mall - booked a loss of "a few million dollars" last year, but is likely to break even this year; while its Marks & Spencer chain here is already profitable.

Singapore is Al-Futtaim's second- largest market in the region after Malaysia, followed by Thailand and Indonesia.

Mr Cann said the company expects to invest around $80 million a year across the four markets to enhance its offerings.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2016, with the headline 'Dubai-based group to refresh retail offerings'. Print Edition | Subscribe