Channel NewsAsia

Carry local fashion brands to stand out, say industry players

Behind the glitz and glamour, Singapore's fashion retailers are grappling with serious challenges, from higher business costs to rising competition from online retailers.

SINGAPORE: Behind the glitz and glamour, Singapore's fashion retailers are grappling with serious challenges, from higher business costs to rising competition from online retailers.

Some industry players at the 5th Asia Fashion Summit in Singapore said tapping into niches, like carrying local brands, may help fend off the competition.

It is hard to tell one shopping mall from another these days, since they carry the same brands and the same products.

David Wang, vice president of Textile and Fashion Federation, said: "They would like to carry international brands, so that their malls will look of that level. But unfortunately, if you walk the malls today, they all look pretty similar, because the content is similar."

One way to change that is to champion local brands, to stand out from the competition.

Robinsons Jem at Jurong East has done just that -- with a section on its womenswear floor dedicated to local designers.

It also carries some local brands at its flagship Orchard store.

But Robinsons said the dollars and cents matter too.

Franz Kraatz, managing director of Robinsons, said: "We monitor their productivity in terms of how they sell and if our customers like them, and we increase the buy if we see there is an increase in demand, and if there isn't an increase in demand, we exit them and try to bring in more.

“So it's something that's very important to us -- we want to try to develop the local creativity in Singapore, because we think it's very important, but having said that, we also need to make sure that they compete with the best international brands."

Speaking at the fashion summit, Mr Kraatz said focusing on customer experience is also important.

Robinsons underwent a revamp last year, closing its store at Centrepoint and opening a new S$40 million flagship at the Heeren, also along Orchard Road.

And it said traffic is up some 50 per cent.

Industry players said local retailers can also learn from their counterparts in the US, South Korea and Japan to create a better and more personalised customer experience.

Chris Koh, honorary president of the Textile and Fashion Federation, said: "If the sales staff do not know the product well enough, they will not be able to do a better job. If they do, they can be more productive -- they can sell more, and the business will be better.

“So there is a lot for our local retailers in the fashion side, to learn from our friends from Korea or Japan or the US.” 

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna