Some S'pore retailers buck trend with new outlets, creating job opportunities

Home-grown footwear retailer Moda Paolo is opening two new outlets at shopping malls Jurong Point and Harbourfront Centre.
Home-grown footwear retailer Moda Paolo is opening two new outlets at shopping malls Jurong Point and Harbourfront Centre.PHOTO: MODA PAOLO/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - While some retailers - including Robinsons - have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and forced to shutter, others are looking to hire more staff to support their expansion plans.

Home-grown footwear retailer Moda Paolo is opening two new outlets at shopping malls Jurong Point and Harbourfront Centre.

Mr Loh Chong Hoe, who manages marketing and communications at Moda Paolo, said the company is taking advantage of lower rental at malls as a result of the Covid-19 situation.

"The rental at malls now is not as high as previously, based on the market rate. So we feel that right now is a good time for us to expand," said Mr Loh.

"It is a gamble on our part... (but) we are hoping that things will get better in the next one to two years," he added.

To support its expansion plans, Moda Paolo is hiring retail managers, branch managers, sales assistants and customer service staff.

Meanwhile, local fashion label The Closet Lover is opening this month its fourth outlet at Takashimaya Shopping Centre and is looking to fill managerial positions to oversee expansion plans.

Co-founder Brianna Wong said the fashion label, which started in 2011 as an online shopping site, has always had its sights set on expanding its retail presence.

"Sales have been better than expected, both online and retail," said Ms Wong.

The Closet Lover will be opening its fourth outlet at Takashimaya Shopping Centre. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Last month, the Ministry of Manpower revealed that there have been about 2,500 jobs in the retail sector on offer as stores reopen and more businesses turn to e-commerce.

Mr William Ow, senior consulting manager at employment agency Search Personnel, said he has seen an increase in retail job openings since the end of the circuit breaker in June.

"Previously, the retail sector was hiring mostly Malaysians and Filipinos, and some of them went back to their home countries. At that time, companies did not see an impact because they were asked to close their stores and they moved to do e-commerce," said Mr Ow.

"Now, stores have reopened and these companies are facing a manpower issue for front-of-house operations," he added.

Employers are not finding it easy to fill these positions as few Singaporeans are keen to work the long hours demanded in retail jobs.

He has also seen more job openings for e-commerce-related positions as retailers have been forced to move their operations online to keep pace with consumer demand.

To help retailers transform their business, more than 550 workers from 37 retailers have been, or are being, trained and redeployed to new or higher-value job roles through Workforce Singapore's Job Redesign Reskilling Programme, which was enhanced in February.

They include Ms Joyce Ann Ong, 34, previously a store manager at Mothercare. After the retailer redesigned and enhanced her job scope, she is now also a training assistance manager and digital nursery adviser lead at Mothercare's Paragon store, and is able to better help customers over the phone or virtually through video calls.

Since the programme started at Mothercare in April, eight employees from the marketing and operations departments as well as Sparkleclean, a cleaning service for strollers and child car seats, have been retrained for new job scopes.

"Through this journey, I found new prospects and a new reason to treasure and love my job more. We just need to take that one step to get out from our comfort zone, and welcome changes in order to grow," said Ms Ong.

She made a mid-career switch to retail with help of job conversion programme

After working in the wholesale trade for about seven years, Ms April Peck was approached with a job offer as a retail operations manager.

Despite not having any experience in retail, Ms Peck, 44, decided to take a leap of faith and made a career switch last December.

Just as she was getting used to her new role at luxury watch retailer All Watches, the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

To help her transition into her new role and equip with the customer service skills needed, the company enrolled her in a professional conversion programme for retail professionals in March.

Ms Peck said she found the programme useful. "It's very relevant, and the trainers use real-life examples to help you have a better understanding of how retail operations are carried out," she added.

She said the circuit breaker period, which forced retail stores to close for about two to three months, has forced retailers to transform their business model.

"We were already on e-commerce, but we were not really doing it aggressively. So the circuit breaker really prompted us to take drastic action to be digitally ready," said Ms Peck, who is married with two children.

"When our stores re-opened in mid-June, we had learnt a lot during the past two-and-a-half months, and had a better perspective on doing things like having virtual consultations for customers or virtual events."

Despite the challenges ahead for the retail sector, Ms Peck is excited about her career prospects.

She said: "I'm already 44, so it's not easy for me to join a new industry and I'm trying my best to adapt. But so long as my skillsets are still relevant, I will want to stay in this industry."