Parliament: Local payments make up three-quarters of online transactions, but retail industry still adapting to e-commerce

A customer using Apple Pay to pay at the self checkout counter at NTUC FairPrice Xtra in NEX on Dec 21, 2016.
A customer using Apple Pay to pay at the self checkout counter at NTUC FairPrice Xtra in NEX on Dec 21, 2016.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Payments to local entities made up about three-quarters of online transactions with locally issued cards in the past three years, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann said in Parliament on Tuesday (July 4) morning.

These transactions amounted to about $18.3 billion, she added - but they include bill payments alongside e-commerce purchases.

Meanwhile, transactions with foreign entities were worth $6.4 billion.

MP Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) had asked about the impact of foreign e-commerce on local businesses and how the Trade and Industry Ministry will help home-grown companies improve their e-commerce sales.

In reply, Ms Sim said: "While e-commerce presents competition to our local retailers, it also gives Singapore retailers the opportunity to expand their reach to the region and beyond."

She pointed to Spring Singapore, IE Singapore and the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore as government agencies helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) here adopt e-commerce.

Trade associations and chambers such as the Singapore Retailers Association, as well as private-sector companies, can also help SMEs set up online marketplaces and train their staff, she said.

Ms Sim added that Spring and SkillsFuture Singapore have worked together to develop a skills framework for the retail sector that will incorporate both e-commerce and digital marketing. This will be launched later this year.

Capability-building strategies for local businesses will include "upskilling the workforce so that our retailers will be able to draw on expertise, to understand how to operate in an e-commerce environment", she said, in response to a supplementary question from MP Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) on whether Singapore's retail industry is "losing out" to international e-commerce.

Although measures are in place to support retailers in adapting to digital sales, Ms Sim noted that online transactions still account for only 3 per cent of retail receipts. The Government has previously said it aims to raise the proportion to 10 per cent by 2020.

Operating receipts for the retail industry were close to $35.8 billion in 2015, making up about 1.4 per cent of the gross domestic product.