Amid a challenging retail scene, Singapore entrepreneur Terence Yow has opened a new store at Raffles City.
The 47-year-old is the founder and chief executive officer of Enviably Me, a retailer of Melissa shoes - a Brazilian brand - in Singapore and Malaysia and shoe label EMU Australia in Singapore.
The company launched MDreams, a 1,700 sq ft Melissa flagship store, last month. It is the second Melissa boutique in Singapore and the largest standalone Melissa store in the world.
The other outlet is at Wheelock Place and the label is also stocked at nine other department stores and retailers, such as Robinsons, Metro, Tangs, Takashimaya, Isetan Scotts, Pedder on Scotts and Mothercare.
Despite the retail industry being in a slump because of the strong Singapore dollar, high labour costs and the flourishing online market, Mr Yow is confident the new store will be a success.
"We have been very careful and have taken the time to expand here. We focus a lot on building the brand, rather than just having promotions and pushing products in people's faces. I think this is what has helped us to continually grow."
The new store's layout and design have been created to attract customers. Mr Yow says: "The curved shape of the displays and seats creates flow and movement that help guide customers' eyes through the store. We want the store displays to replicate dance movements."
The lighting is bright as well as strategically blended and positioned such that it is not too white or yellow.
Mr Yow, who has been in the retail industry for about 20 years, says the label grew by 20 per cent last year. He expects a double-digit jump this year as well.
The accounting graduate from Nanyang Technological University founded Enviably Me in 2009. Before that, he spent 14 years at consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble as an associate director and worked with brands such as Pampers, Whisper, Olay and SK-II. He is married to a housewife and they have a four-month-old son.
On why he started his own company, he says: "I was 39 and I thought, if I'm not going to try something on my own before I hit 40, then I'm never going to do it."
Enviably Me had a multi-label store which opened in 2010 at Wheelock Place and sold eco-friendly and sustainable products. While sourcing for labels for his store in 2011, he found out about Melissa shoes.
"They are made of 100 per cent biodegradable plastic and the company has environmentally and socially responsible practices. It is such an exciting brand that is highly sustainable."
He bought 300 pairs from Brazil, which sold out in a few weeks at the multi-brand store.
"That was when I knew we were on to something and I decided to focus on the Melissa brand."
ON HIS BAG
This is from Harveys, an American brand that makes durable bags from seatbelts that would otherwise have been disposed of because of minor defects that do not meet safety standards. I bought it from the United States when I started my company and it has been through a lot. I hope my team and I can be as resilient as this bag.
He closed the multi-label store and opened the first Melissa store at the basement of Wheelock Place the following year.
While he is optimistic about his business, Mr Yow has strong words to describe Orchard Road, which is battling flagging retail sales, high rental costs and cautious consumer sentiment. He calls the premier shopping belt a "sick baby" that needs help.
"I think Singapore has lost its lustre as a shoppers' paradise. In fact, I don't hear those words being used anymore," he says.
So what does he think should be done to get Orchard Road out of its rut?
While retailers should upgrade customer experience in their stores and aim to become more engaging, he believes the Government should take the lead in revamping the shopping street.
"The Government has to remake Orchard Road, just like it did to the Marina Bay area, which is bustling today because of the resort, Marina Barrage, Gardens by the Bay and events like F1," he adds.
"Things like these attract people and Orchard Road has to become a holistic destination like that."
Asked if he will open more stores or bring in new labels, Mr Yow is cautious. "We try not to overstep ourselves. Quality is important. We are looking at new brands, but we want them to meet the needs of fussy Singapore customers before we flood the market."
Though he declines to give details, he says the company is actively looking to expand beyond Singapore and Malaysia. "We'll keep running the race. Otherwise, others catch up with you. We are taking our time and getting it right."
Things in his bag
I bought these because they match my hair. I'm quite active and like mountain biking so I chose this lightweight pair with a sporty look.
I've always been an Apple fan. My company uses its laptops now. I frequently have meetings on the go and need my laptop to make quick decisions.
NAME CARD HOLDER
This was a gift from a friend from Japan. I like it because it is simple and understated.
BALLPOINT PEN FROM CARTIER
This was a birthday gift from my team four years ago. I value my people a lot and I'm happy that most of them have been with me from the start. So I appreciate any gift because I think it means I'm doing something right.
NOTEPAD FROM HERMES
With all the technology today, I think a notepad is still an important tool because nothing beats being able to write things down. I take notes during meetings, record my thoughts and inspirations and write down reminders.
ZEN & THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE BY ROBERT M. PIRSIG
I'm re-reading this because I feel it's a good time to reflect on my life. I first read it more than 25 years ago, when I was a student. I was questioning my life and role in the world at the time. The story reflects the conflict between romanticism and rationalism. It forced me to think about the kind of filter through which I wanted to view life. I lean towards rational thinking, but the book pointed me to a more balanced view.