S'pore retail brands get leg up to expand overseas under refreshed road map

Furniture chain Castlery, which tapped help from EnterpriseSG last year, now draws 80 per cent of its revenue from abroad. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - While many retail brands struggled during the Covid-19 pandemic, furniture chain Castlery got a spring on its bottom line - its revenue grew by six times from 2019 to 2021 - from expansion into the United States market, among other factors.

The firm tapped help from Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG) for its US branding and marketing campaigns in 2021. Castlery now draws 80 per cent of its revenue from abroad, including the US and Australia.

To create more such success stories and give more Singapore retailers a leg up to diversify overseas, a refreshed strategy - Retail Industry Transformation Map (ITM) 2025 - was announced by Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling on Friday.

"The Government is committed to supporting home-grown companies like Castlery to become giants in their right, as they continue to innovate and transform to become globally recognised Singapore brands," she said at the official opening of Castlery's flagship store in Liat Towers.

The ITM is put together by EnterpriseSG, with help from key industry players, unions and other government agencies.

Other than overseas expansion, the ITM lays out three other strategies - creating experiential concepts and innovations, strengthening Singapore's position as a hub for global brands, and stepping up job and skill transformation.

The first iteration of the ITM in 2016 focused largely on adoption of digitalisation to raise productivity and reduce reliance on manpower.

According to an Infocomm Media Development Authority survey, as at 2021, nine in 10 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the retail sector have adopted at least one digital solution - be it for inventory management or accounting and human resources management.

Companies have also taken to e-commerce. Compared with pre-Covid-19, the proportion of online sales for the retail sector has more than doubled, from about 7 per cent in 2019 to 16 per cent in 2021.

Ms Low said the retail sector has seen considerable growth despite the strong headwinds, adding that this year's total retail sales up to August had reached $26.7 billion, an increase of more than 15 per cent versus the same period last year.

"This refreshed road map will arm the sector with what it needs to meet the accelerated changes brought about by Covid-19."

Castlery co-founder Declan Ee (centre) showing Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling the Lily Dining Table at Castlery’s new Orchard flagship store. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

EnterpriseSG will work with e-commerce platforms to provide SMEs with access to global markets. Lazada, for instance, extends advisory services and training on branding, marketing, logistics and fulfilment in South-east Asia.

EnterpriseSG will also partner Singapore Tourism Board to promote promising brands overseas.

Unique in-store experiences are also key to cultivating client loyalty. For example, in June, B.P. de Silva Jewellers launched its flagship boutique in Dempsey, with dedicated spaces to allow customers to commission a bespoke piece.

In June, B.P. de Silva Jewellers launched its flagship boutique in Dempsey, with dedicated spaces to allow customers to commission a bespoke piece. PHOTO: B.P. DE SILVA JEWELLERS

Attracting global brands to set up their South-east Asian base in Singapore, to experiment with concepts and products, is crucial too. "Global brands add vibrancy to our retail scene and are potential partners for Singapore retailers to expand their offerings," said Ms Low.

The road map will also see EnterpriseSG, Workforce Singapore and SkillsFuture Singapore supporting company efforts to upskill and reskill workers in emerging roles such as digital marketers and data analysts.

As at December 2021, the retail sector accounts for 1.4 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product and employs about 116,000 people.

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