In the face of digitalisation and the rapid growth of online shopping channels, one retail company stands by its chain of physical stores.
That is because Miniso - a Japanese lifestyle and fast fashion brand that sells items such as homeware, bags and electronics at low prices - was founded on the premise of keeping physical shopping alive, said Miniso Singapore director Alex Zhang.
But that does not mean Miniso will be shunning technology.
Instead of using it to change the face of its business, the company is looking to leverage data analytics and automation to streamline processes, as it prepares to expand here.
The Business Times reported last week that retailers here are working at growing their e-commerce presence to complement their brick-and-mortar operations.
Challenger Tech, which reported a 61 per cent slide in its fourth-quarter profits to $3.02 million, highlighted that it will be focusing on boosting e-commerce productivity from its Hachi.tech online marketplace to offset the weak retail operations.
Mr Zhang told The New Paper that the mushrooming of online shopping avenues has changed consumers' behaviour and mindset, causing retailers like Miniso to lose customers.
"But from what we observed, Singaporeans still enjoy the experience of shopping in malls," he said.
"People here still love seeing the designs and products in person before buying them."
This is what encouraged Miniso's bid to open another 20 shops here - taking the number to 46 - by year end, he said.
Miniso, which was founded in Japan in 2013, entered the Singapore market in December 2015.
The brand today has more than 1,000 stores in China, as well as shops in South-east Asia, Australia, Russia and Turkey.
Mr Zhang told TNP that the retail industry is facing a labour shortage - a problem that will worsen in the next three to five years.
To counter this, Miniso is looking to leverage technology to alleviate the manpower crunch.
For example, it is looking to employ an auto-replenish system, a back-end process that automatically tracks the quantities of items purchased and calls for a restock when goods are about to be sold out.
It has already implemented a digital price tag system as well as a thumbprint system for staff, so they do not have to fill in paperwork to clock the hours worked.
"This enables our staff to focus more of their energy on running and maintaining the store, instead of taking care of the back-end processes.
"It could go a long way to streamline our processes and increase efficiency," he said.
This article was first published on Mar 20, 2017.
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