New plan to help retailers boost sales

A new retail productivity plan has been launched to help retailers here to sell more and grab a larger slice of the global sales pie.

It will encourage retailers to go on the offensive, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan, who unveiled the plan at the 24th Singapore Retail Industry Conference yesterday.

Dubbed the Retail Productivity Plan 2.0 by Mr Lee, its main aim is to provide support and know-how to retailers to capture sales online, as well as help them sell more with branding and concept innovations.

Developed by Spring Singapore in consultation with industry stakeholders, the plan also aims to spur tie-ups between retailers and logistics players such as SingPost. It will also pave the way for stores here to market their products on international platforms such as Alibaba.

Spanning from next year to 2020, Plan 2.0 will also build on the first five-year plan launched in 2011 by helping slower retailers to improve operational efficiency with technology. It will also help firms cut costs further with manpower-saving technologies such as self-checkout systems.

"If we only play defensively, we would see our retail sector growing very slowly, or perhaps not at all," said Mr Lee at the conference at the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre .

He said: "Our strategy therefore cannot be limited to cost-cutting and efficiency improvement.

"Our strategy has to be offensive, to include selling beyond the limitation of our store fronts and to serve markets in the region and beyond."

Since its launch in 2011, the first Retail Productivity Plan has helped more than 1,900 retailers.

The retail sector employs 5 per cent of Singapore's workforce, accounting for about 125,000 jobs last year. It generated about $35 billion in annual operating sales that year.

Mr R. Dhinakaran, vice-president of the 600-member Singapore Retailers Association (SRA), said that only 20 per cent of SRA's members have an online presence.

He said: "The new plan will be helpful. Many retailers struggle with the extra costs needed to go online .

"Many also lack the technical know-how to make that jump."

Ms Helen Khoo, executive director of WingTai Asia, with more than 100 stores here across brands including Topshop and Karen Millen, said that upping sales is exactly what is on the cards for them now. The group recently restructured its head office to cut costs and pulled out several poorly-performing brands here, and is now concentrating on "intensifying sales", she said.

The group now has four brands on e-commerce portal Zalora, and will soon add another four.

Since April, it has been managing its customers on just one platform as opposed to separate ones for each brand.

This, said Ms Khoo, has allowed WingTai to have just one loyalty card, sell across brands and analyse customer data better.

Adding that WingTai will contact Spring Singapore to see how the second Retail Productivity Plan can help it, she said: "We need to make sure we have enough revenue to support future innovations. We have to go past survival mode."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2015, with the headline 'New plan to help retailers boost sales'. Print Edition | Subscribe