Despite a slowdown in the consumer electronics industry here, Japanese electronics chain Best Denki is expanding, with plans to open two new stores next year.
This will bring the number of Best Denki stores in Singapore to 13.
Latest figures from market researcher Euromonitor International show that the retail value of consumer electronics products sold here fell for the first time since 2005: from $3.22 billion in 2013 to $3.15 billion last year - a dip of 2 per cent.
However, such statistics have not fazed Mr Hanasaki Kenji, 56, Best Denki's president and head of Asean region, who is optimistic about the market here. "I am not so worried. The downward trend does not hamper our business from growing," he said, adding that the business had, after all, pulled through the global financial crisis in 2008.
The electronics giant, with over 300 stores around the world, opened its first overseas store in Singapore in 1985 at the now- defunct Yaohan department store in Plaza Singapura mall.
Yaohan Best expanded with the Yaohan department store, going on to open new outlets in Katong and Thomson. When Yaohan exited the Singapore market in 1997, Yaohan Best was renamed Best Denki.
Best Denki has grown here in the past decade, with annual revenue jumping 19 per cent - from $246.1 million in 2004 to $293 million last year.
The trick to success in Singapore, said Mr Kenji, lies in a store's location and the haggle power of the chain's merchandisers. That is why all of the chain's stores here are located in shopping malls, he said.
Like many other chains here, Best Denki's prices are controlled by the merchants or brand managers of the products they sell, he explained. "We have to follow a baseline price, but our merchandisers haggle the prices down," he said, adding that they also keep track of what their competitors charge and revise prices to remain competitive.
Rents, said Mr Kenji, are much higher here than in Japan; so inefficient stores are shut quickly.
Its top-performing store is at Ngee Ann City. It opened in 1993 and, at 50,000 sq ft, is the chain's flagship and largest store.
Manpower is an issue. The chain is now about 5 per cent short of staff, and front-line employees come and go. He said: "If they stay one year, that's considered long- term. We spend more to retain staff in Singapore than in other countries."
He recalled his early years as a salesman memorising the instruction manuals of electrical appliances. He did it so that he could serve customers well. "Nowadays, it's difficult to find such dedicated staff."