Centre supporting heartland businesses to expand reach

Retail sales assistant Lee Jong Ren, 29, checking the items for an order with retail manager Kelvin Tan (far right), 34, at Kim Eng Mini Supermarket in Chong Pang City on Nov 25. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY
Retail sales assistant Lee Jong Ren, 29, checking the items for an order with retail manager Kelvin Tan (far right), 34, at Kim Eng Mini Supermarket in Chong Pang City on Nov 25. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

The move to revitalise the heartland retail scene is well under way, with ambitious plans by Heartland Enterprise Centre Singapore (HECS) to upgrade businesses and workers next year.

The centre, which was launched in June, aims to train at least 1,000 employers and workers and help 200 heartland enterprises better use technology in their operations, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat.

HECS will also work with five more merchant associations to develop rejuvenation plans for their precincts, Mr Chee said at the Singapore Heartland Enterprise Star Award 2019 event at Shangri-La Hotel last night.

The centre has trained more than 190 employers and workers, and helped more than 40 shops in the heartland since July. It is working with merchant associations in Ang Mo Kio, Bedok Town Centre and Chong Pang City.

"The push to train employers and workers, help companies use technology and work with more merchant associations will require hard work from both the centre and retailers," Mr Chee said in Mandarin.

The Government recognises that industry transformation is not easy, and launched HECS to help companies on this front, he added.

He highlighted AirCold, an electronics retailer in Chong Pang, whose Home101 online store on Qoo10 has almost 33,000 fans.

"AirCold has combined both its online and brick-and-mortar operations, attracting more customers and sales," Mr Chee said.

A study conducted by the Federation of Merchants' Associations, Singapore, showed that the three key challenges faced by heartland businesses are changing consumer behaviour and needs, increased competition, and the lack of know-how in engaging younger consumers.

HECS will work with merchant associations and government agencies to not only help modernise businesses and upgrade the workforce, but also improve public spaces and make each heartland area more distinct.

There are more than 15,000 heartland enterprises in 14 town centres in Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2019, with the headline 'Centre supporting heartland businesses to expand reach'. Print Edition | Subscribe