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Retail in Singapore is dead? Think again.

a month ago / ntuc / working girl / worklifesg

More than meets the eye.

Long-time readers of this space will know that I have dabbled in several businesses over the years.

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Look Ma, it's me!

From being in IT (those were the days of the dot com boom and webhosting was all the rage) to the apparel and OEM industry and even dealing with office equipment (this is the family sorta business that I don't talk about lol)... I think I'm lucky to have tried 'em out.

The easiest business to me? If you can even classify it as one - being a landlord. Best if you can score good commercial property units.

The toughest - especially in Singapore - retail.

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I'm sure you've heard those horror stories about how Orchard Road these days is simply a ghost town?

I attended this year's SME Symposium organised by NTUC and e2i recently where I'd received many insights to the retail industry, particularly in Singapore.

Who/ What is e2i?

e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) is an initiative by NTUC which has assisted more than 500,000 individuals through their career guidance, professional development, and job matching services.

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Overview of e2i’s Career Service

e2i also recently launched its new U Career Network where employability coaches, associate coaches, employability ambassadors and industry mentors will reach out to even more Singaporeans and offer help in growing their careers.

The U Career Network will include touchpoints all over Singapore such as PA, CDC and Self-Help Groups, IHLs and the expanded Labour Movement (unions, professional associations, SMEs, freelancers and self-employed etc).

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U Career Network touchpoints all over Singapore (NTUC)

As part of the Labour Movement’s efforts to help SMEs and SME workers, its SME Symposium 2017 aimed to share insights and strategies with SMEs to address the global economic challenges and uncertainties ahead.

There were three breakout sessions (Food & Beverage, Logistics and Retail) as part of the SME Symposium 2017. Smith attended the F&B session while I chose the retail one, both of which were organised by e2i.

To be honest, I went to the session with quite a skeptical mind because, how good can the retail industry in Singapore be?!

Pretty good, apparently.

I really enjoyed the sharing by Mr Andrew Tan who is the owner of Atomi, a lifestyle store at Mandarin Gallery, and the managing partner for Atomi Consulting, where he is working with a property owner in Kobe in Japan to revitalise a shopping mall slated to open in Q4 of 2017.

In his words, he owns probably "the smallest furniture shop in Singapore" yet business is thriving. He also shared with us some of his "trade secrets".

These include:

  • The art and science of visual merchandising (do you think about your shoppers' patterns and how you can place your products around your store to increase revenue?)

  • The aspects of Exterior, Interior, Virtual, Theme & Ambience

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  • Are you able to bring the theme of your brand alive and let the consumers feel them using all of their five senses? From the atmosphere, are you able to express your branding, positioning and attract the targeted groups of consumers to step into your boutiques, cafes, malls etc?

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I won't divulge too much here else it will not be fair to the rest of us who attended the session lol BUT you can keep a lookout for more of such events and masterclasses by e2i.

In fact, e2i often organises several events to empower BOTH individuals and companies seeking skills and solutions for growth. e2i also offers hiring, training and productivity solutions to businesses.

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e2i’s hiring solutions for businesses

For example, e2i ran a Place-and-Train programme with Running Lab to solve the company’s manpower issues while ensuring the newly placed staff have training (via in-house courses, on the job training, WSQ courses and e2i masterclasses) and competitive wages.

Three millennials who joined Running Lab under e2i’s Place-and-Train programme found the job scope and training benefits attractive.

Two of them also came down for the retail breakout session to share with fellow participants about their experience in the Place-and-Train programme, and their boss was also present to share with businesses how to attract young people to join the retail scene.

Many participants who were at the session not only went away with tips and real life examples of e2i’s help, but also exchanged name cards with management and staff from the featured companies for further networking which comes in handy especially for SMEs.

I've been involved with quite a few of e2i’s events and programmes and I honestly think they are usually quite insightful for small business owners, those working/ who want to work in startups and SMEs (after all, SMEs form 99% of the businesses in Singapore) and basically those who want to enhance their own productivity and skill sets so as to seek better jobs and better wages.

See you at the next event then?