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Singapore retail “over-shopped”

Channel News Asia interview

Brands and retailers in Singapore will have to swallow a bitter medicine and cull their store networks, according to the head of Al-Futtaim’s Asia business, Kesri Kapur.

Dubai-based Al-Futtaim operates the Marks & Spencer, Royal Sporting House Group, Robinsons and John Little retail brands in Singapore, along with Inditex’s portfolio, including Zara, Massimo Dutti and Bershka.

Earlier this month, Kapur announced the closure of two John Little stores and one Marks & Spencer store in the city state, as reported by Inside Retail Asia, along with plans to open a new Zara store at Changi Airport.

In a subsequent interview with Channel News Asia, Kapur said the changes were necessary in the Singapore retail landscape, which he described as “a challenging place”.

“We have had tourism declines, or flat numbers for tourism, and shopping habits of locals are changing over a period of time. So I do anticipate that the Singapore market over the coming 12 to 24 months will be competitive and challenging as far as consumption is concerned.

“I do anticipate that we will have to swallow the medicine which is a little bitter. This is my personal view, Singapore is a little over-retailed. Brands will have to come out and partners like us will have to come out and realise that there is a finite amount of retailing which can take place in Singapore. So the bitter medicine which I was talking about was more in terms of cutting down on the number of physical stores that each brand has, each concept has, in Singapore.

“If you walk around, there is a lot of repetition in Singapore retail. That repetition might go away. Retailers will have no choice but to make their operations more systematic and more efficient. There is no tipping point, it has to be a process. And that process will take 18 to 24 months.”

Kapur was also asked by Channel News Asia for his opinion on the government’s planned rejuvenation of Orchard Rd, the city’s most famous shopping strip. He urged planners to consider more underground links.

“I do not think we have enough connectivity. More malls should come forward and try to ensure there is more connectivity.

“Secondly, there has to be a little more variety on the street. The perception Singapore is sending out is that today, it is an expensive place to shop. Retailers have started realising that, and with the Singapore dollar going down in the last few weeks, we have seen that Singapore is getting back to the competitive edge – at least in retail pricing.

“We have to go out and market ourselves as one of the safest places to shop, or walk around, or live.”


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