Commercial rentals are rising, workers are difficult to hire and consumers these days are increasingly shopping online.
In short, it is not easy being a bricks-and-mortar retailer. However, some industry players are adopting innovative ways of handling such problems without sacrificing the human touch that is essential to the shopping experience, noted Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
And with such leaders paving the way, the industry could achieve significant productivity improvements in years to come.
Mr Tharman made these comments on Tuesday after a meeting with Wing Tai Retail executives, who shared with him and Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin the steps they have taken to boost productivity.
These include getting on social media to better engage their customers and using technology to optimise manpower scheduling.
Efforts such as these have helped the retail sector achieve nominal productivity growth of 3 to 4 per cent every year for three years, Mr Tharman said, adding that retail is faring better than the food and beverage sector.
"But we need significant initiatives of this sort, both in the front and back end - how you win your customers as well as how you improve efficiency," he said.
"You have to look at the whole logistics supply chain too, to see how... the business-to-business relationship is put on a more efficient footing in Singapore."
Since the retail productivity road map was rolled out in April 2011, over 300 retail firms have been supported by the Government for productivity and service upgrading projects, he added.
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