SINGAPORE – Some retailers are expanding their presence in Singapore even as others made their exit amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Consumers’ changing needs as more people work and study from home have given opportunities to retailers who cater to them.
For instance, more people have taken an interest in home furnishing, said furniture chain Ikea’s retail director for Singapore and the Philippines Jaap Doornbos.
“As Singaporeans spend more time at home, they re-look their sofa and decide to renew it; or look at their kitchen and plan for an overhaul. In the last 12 months, Ikea has seen strong sales specifically in work from home solutions, tableware, kitchenware and outdoor furniture.”
At a time when others are closing their outlets, Ikea has expanded its footprint here with a third outlet in Jem in Jurong East, which has clocked healthy footfalls since its opening in April. The chain’s two other outlets are in Alexandra Road and Tampines.
Demand is likely to hold, as many workers have taken to working from home and a growing list of large companies, such as Google and Twitter, are becoming more accepting of remote arrangements.
The exit of retailers such as Robinsons department store chain has also freed up a prime space in the heart of Orchard Road.
Electronics and furniture retailer Courts will be taking over all six storeys of The Hereen that was once occupied by Robinsons in the first quarter of next year.
This will be its largest outlet.
The company said expanding its presence in the central area will allow it to earn some tourist dollars in the future as well.
Group and country chief executive of Courts Singapore Matthew Hoang said the company performed several rounds of studies and analyses before deciding to open the store.
The studies went beyond the projections of returns and looked into how the outlet can serve a bigger purpose in making the retail scene more vibrant, he said.
The retailer also believes that the new location will give it an edge in the long term, especially with plans by the Government to revitalise the Orchard Road shopping belt.
Mr Hoang said: “We believe that having a physical presence would benefit our overall strategy, as customers would be able to view and try our products in real life, while also enjoying the convenience of online shopping.”
Footwear retailer Skechers has been making a splash late last year and early this year, opening stores at prime locations such as Wisma Atria, City Square Mall, 313@Somerset, and Paragon.
Its South-east Asia vice-president Zann Lee said it was able to find good store locations which had been freed up, with brands exiting key locations.
Landlords were more open to negotiations and rental rates have reduced by about 20 per cent to 30 per cent from the listed rates, she said.
She added: “Despite the challenging retail climate, there are still pockets of opportunity that we were able to act upon… Being able to open these new retail outlets allows us to expand our store network, especially in central areas which usually have higher barriers to entry.”
The retail chain will be in a good position to reach out to more customers when the pandemic improves, Ms Lee said.
With such longer-term goals in mind, retailers such as Skechers are taking the current tightened restrictions in their stride.
They also expect business to pick up after curbs are expected to ease on June 13.
“Although we are concerned that the latest heightened alert measures will impact physical-store sales and footfall once more, we are hopeful that Skechers will be able to tide through this latest challenging period with our product offerings and safe shopping environment”.