Is retail dying a slow death in Singapore?

Even Singapore’s famous shopping district, Orchard Road, has seen its vacancy rates hit 8.8% in the first quarter of 2016. This is the highest vacancy rate seen in five years, which is higher than the island-wide average of 7.3%!

Suburban malls, online shopping and improvements in last-mile delivery services have threatened the existence of brands operating in brick-and-mortar shops.

The government has rolled out the Retail Industry Transformation Map which recommends how retailers can remain competitive in an increasing disruptive landscape.

Source: Spring Singapore

Among leveraging on bigger initiatives to revitalise the retail industry, such as pedestrianising Orchard Road, pop-up events and themed activities such as the Star Wars festival, what else can retailers do to save their flagging businesses?

I attended a Visual Merchandising masterclass organised by e2i (the Employment and Employability Institute) with participants in the retail trade.

We learnt tips from Andrew Tan, the Singaporean who brought in Japanese products with craftsmanship, heritage and a high level of sophistication to Singapore.

Source: Actus by atomi

Besides operating his own store atomi at Mandarin Gallery, Andrew and his Japanese wife Mitsuko Murano, also helps retail stores such as SunnyHills revamp their interior design.

Andrew gave us quite a lot of good tips, which made me realise why I have reduced shopping at retail stores myself because these stores didn’t give me a compelling reason to continue visiting them.

I thought about how I still loved shopping at certain brands’ stores, and wish that more stores would do more of the following to win back female customers like myself.

1. Make your retail shop look irresistible!

When women shop, it’s not just to simply buy things.

We love window shopping, which means your window displays or shopfronts should be beautiful too!

Add greens to soften the shopfront and draw in visitors.

Sorce: Elemental Design

Tip: Update your google maps location with your beautiful shopfront!

2. Pamper our eyes and Instagram followers

Women like to admire pretty things and beautiful creations.

Create “golden areas” for us to feast our eyes on, such as an instagrammable space with your signature product.

Source: TheSmartLocal

3. Cater to our emotional desires

Women may walk into your store for different reasons.

Sometimes we want to relax after a hectic day at work, sometimes we need some inspiration to jazz up our mundane weekday routines.

Photo: Bright colours of a Smiggle retail outlet

Use the right selection of colours to brighten up our day, or make us feel at home.

Your store should look welcoming, with little touches of love (check out the wall photos at the cafe below) which make us feel safe and comfortable to enter.

Photo: St. Marc Café

4. Curate only the best

Our lives are so cluttered with people, advertisements and things screaming for attention.

Hence please curate your store’s assortment selection so we only see the best.

Less is more.

Photo: Andrew Tan on Assortment Selections

5. We want good advice, not a walking robot

Just as Andrew shared in the slide above that your service professional is your best pairs of eyes, ears and brains, I think a good service staff in the shop is totally underrated.

We struggle with insecurities and not knowing what works best for us.

Hence when we enter your shop, we are looking for solutions, not just products.

Having a good service staff to understand our needs as a customer is very important!

SunnyHills by atomi

Andrew even wrote to TODAY newspaper to share his thoughts on how:

“Retailers need to attract, retain and train good retail professionals to be subject-matter experts in their respective fields in order to better serve consumers.

In addition to the four Ps of retail — price, product, place and promotion — a fifth P, “professional”, is needed to ensure the survival of businesses.”

But quite frequently, we encounter salespeople who stalk us at every move or give us bored looks, which are turn-offs.

Sometimes it isn’t their fault but the job is just not designed to bring out the best in their capabilities (you know you can get job redesign advice from e2i right?).

Graphic: How e2i helps workers and companies

I totally agree with Andrew, please invest in your staff to ensure they have good jobs, and are equipped to give us good professional advice.

If they are happy, we are happy too.

5. Show me the love

Women want to feel loved, so love our senses with:

  • beautiful displays (sight)
  • aromatic scents (smell)
  • touch of fabric (touch)
  • food tasting -if applicable- (taste)
  • accompanying music (hearing)

Be a spa for our five senses.

Photo: Fresh retail store at Raffles City

6. Give us a reason to walk in

We like organization in a messy world.

Hence women like seeing as much as we can in a shop, so we know if it’s worth walking in or not.

Photo: Products neatly organised by 70-90-110cm rule

Use the 70-90-110cm rule to display your products and draw us in.

8. Remind us you’re there for us

Just as women like being reaffirmed of your care and concern, we appreciate it when you bother to remain relevant in our lives outside the retail store.

Make shopping fun for us.

You can do an online/offline promo, or keep us engaged online with useful contents or contests.

Photo: Actus Häuse Opening Party

You can even tease us with temporary pop-up stores with limited editions, or invite us to your opening parties.

Make us loyal customers who can’t wait to go back for your next promotion or new season items 🙂

9. Find out why we leave without buying anything

8 Things Women Wish Retail Stores Would Do
Source: Inside Retail Asia

Even if you managed to make us walk into your store, if we leave without buying anything, it would have been a wasted trip not only for us, but a wasted opportunity for you to learn why this happened.

A good service staff who is by the side of the customer can share with you her observations of why the customer put back your product. Engaging mystery shoppers to give you honest feedback helps too.

Retail is getting really challenging nowadays, but if you are actively seeking out how to fulfil the wishes of your customers, you have a chance of getting your groove back!

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