Unfazed by the sluggish local retail conditions, Toys “R” Us is expanding its foothold in Singapore, with plans to unveil two more stores in the coming months.
One will be slated for opening before Christmas and another by early-2017, country manager Raymond Burt told Channel NewsAsia on Wednesday (Nov 2) at the launch of its newly-refurbished flagship store at VivoCity. That will bring the number of stores the American toy retailer has in Singapore to 11.
With the new stores, there will be around 60 positions to be filled, including full-time and part-time sales positions, as well as management-level posts, added Mr Burt who oversees Toys “R” Us operations in Singapore and Brunei.
However, he declined to reveal further details about the location and size of the new stores, as well as the amount which Toys “R” Us is investing. Channel NewsAsia understands that the VivoCity store, which is 30,000 square feet, will remain the retailer’s biggest store in Singapore.
According to APAC president Andre Javes, the company, which first ventured into Singapore in 1984, has “no issues” in putting in further investments in the local market despite a deteriorating retail outlook and growing concerns over the economy.
“We will continue to grow here as we still see Singapore as a growth market,” Mr Javes, who is usually based in Hong Kong, said. “We don’t want to make decisions just based on the current economic situation which is tough… but this market has been a good one for the past 32 years and we have no issues investing more.”
In fact, Mr Javes said he is “quite optimistic” about sales over the coming years, citing the release of new Hollywood blockbuster movies that will likely add additional push in toy sales.
In addition, the toy market is usually “recession-proof” with demand for certain categories such as educational toys holding up, especially during festive seasons like Christmas, he added.
STAYING IN THE GAME
In its home market, the conventional retail chain has come under pressure from other retailers, such as Wal-Mart, that sell toys, as well as the rise of online platforms including Amazon. A sign of its struggles, Toys “R” Us shuttered its iconic 110,000 square feet flagship store at Times Square in New York last year.
In Singapore where e-commerce has rapidly taken off and given other retailers a run for their money, Mr Burt told Channel NewsAsia that Toys “R” Us has seen less of an impact thus far. Nonetheless, it is stepping up its game by rejuvenating its store experiences with interactive setups and attention-grabbing displays.
Its stores at VivoCity and Paragon have an interactive wall which allows customers to browse through product catalogues or take a photo with. At the revamped VivoCity store, an experiential area comes with three digital screens showing videos about the latest toys. The LEGO section, which is the largest across all Toys “R” Us stores in Southeast Asia, has multiple tables for children to play around.
Meanwhile, it also has an e-shopping platform and offers delivery services for online purchases.
“While we haven’t noticed much (impact), it’s something that has made us challenge our own model… we have to evolve to this new environment,” Mr Burt said. “Over the years, we have stepped up on the activities for interaction in our stores so this is one of our key recipes to success in this omni-channel world. Meanwhile, (online) is part of our business, rather than a new competitor.”
Beyond Singapore, Mr Javes told Channel NewsAsia that there is no slowing down in expansion plans either, with China, Australia and Japan as the company’s key focus.
“In the Greater China region and Southeast Asia, we will be opening around 43 stores this year and we will continue on this path in 2017,” he said.
But Toys “R” Us is taking on a different strategy in this part of the world. Instead of sprawling stores, the trick to success in Asia lies more in the store’s location given the differences in consumer activities.
“In our traditional Western markets, we usually have standalone stores that are double the size of this one in VivoCity where people can drive to on the weekends. But in Asia, we are looking at smaller stores at more convenient locations such as malls where people usually visit on the weekends,” Mr Javes said.
Source : Channel NewsAsia – 2 Nov 2016