A recipe for survival

PHOTO: A recipe for survival

First, Gramophone called it a day.

Now, HMV will shut its flagship store in Orchard Road next month, reducing its operations to a much smaller store in Marina Square.

With online music so readily available nowadays, CD shops are finding it difficult to keep spinning.

That leaves That CD Shop as the only big chain of CD shops.

And even they have down-sized, closing two outlets earlier this year, leaving just four open.

That CD Shop has also started selling cupcakes and macarons at some of its stores since the end of last year.

Other than saying that they will "just continue to do what we are good at doing for the past 20 years, quietly, as always", the home-grown music retailer, which also founded the High Society record label in 2006, declined to comment on its F&B foray.

TNP visited the shop at lunchtime on Friday and saw some patrons walking away with CD purchases.

Branching out

Others were visibly drawn to the cupcakes, which were going at $6 each.

Retail experts say the secret to remaining in business could lie in branching out from the main business to offer other services.

The New Paper found several other businesses which offer unrelated services under the same roof - an eatery that also offers hair cuts and washes, a bicycle shop that sells ice cream and coffee and a mattress showroom within a cafe.

This trend is not born out of the "pure opportunistic behaviour of business owners," said Ms Esther Ho, Nanyang Polytechnic's manager of diploma of retail studies.

Instead, some retailers have identified the "need to engage their customers by creating a social space within their physical stores", she said.

"The key is turning this social space into an income-generating avenue for the retailers," Ms Ho explained.

She also highlighted the need to shift from product-based to lifestyle retailing.

"Retailers are not merely selling a product for its functional benefits. Retail brands have now become an expression of the customer's lifestyle, his values and identity," Ms Ho said.

But the core business must still be substantial, Mr Samuel Tan, course manager of the diploma in retail management at Temasek Polytechnic, cautioned.

Research

Adequate research and knowledge is required, he said.

"Not everyone can easily put two or three businesses together into one. If not done well, it may turn out almost like a 'chapalang' (random mix) shop.

"That will not help the business at all," he said.

Beauty on a plate

She came up with the idea of integrating a cafe serving local delights into the salon so that her patrons could grab a bite while doing their hair.

Some of these services, like hair treatments, can last a few hours, she said.

But now, the cafe is what's generating the buzz instead.

This was also Madam May Tong's way of playing safe - this was her first time running a business after caring for her three children for the past decade.

Madam Tong, who set up Take 2 Cafe Take 2 Saloon at Thomson Road three months ago, said: "If the response for one side is not good, at least we can maintain the other one. Not the whole thing will be gone."

The salon first opened in July, followed by the cafe the next month.

Initially, she had intended for the cafe to cater to just her patrons.

But when she saw how well people were taking to her local delights that the cafe serves, she decided to open it to the public.

"We decided to serve local food because you can have coffee and cake everywhere these days.

"The customers seem to like the personal touch that comes with the homecooked food we serve," she said.

Two months after her foray into the market, Madam Tong is relieved that her business venture is doing better than expected.

"At first, I had no confidence that this would work out. But at least the response is not bad."

Madam Tong said that the cafe is doing better than the salon, but that is within her expectations.

"The salon is picking up a bit slowly because it's not so easy for someone to change (from) a hairstylist he or she is familiar with," Madam Tong said.

Drink & ride here

Poke your head into this shop space and you will be greeted by the aroma of coffee wafting through the cosy cafe.

But don't think that's all there is to it. Walk in further and you will see that it is a haven for cyclists. Think walls lined with foldable bicycles, helmets and other bike accessories.

LifeCycle's owner, Mr Simon Siah, 41, decided on the cafe-retail concept with the intention of using the cafe to attract people.

"Not everyone is a cyclist. But everyone drinks a coffee," he said.

Mr Siah (left), who used to be in advertising, jokingly said that it was merely a convenient excuse to combine his two favourites - coffee and cycling - in his business venture, now made up of two outlets in Singapore and one in Beijing. two outlets

The two outlets here are at Rangoon Road and Upper Serangoon Road and opened in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

On the sidelines, Mr Siah does various brand collaborations as well.

"Brand collaborations is the way to go these days. It makes sense. This way, we leverage on each other's strengths."

For instance, the coffee blend served at LifeCycle, aptly named Fuel, is the result of a collaboration between LifeCycle and artisan coffee roaster Papa Palheta. "People know us as the bike guys.

How are we going to serve coffee? So I work with someone who does coffee well," Mr Siah said.

Mr Siah also has a "grand plan" to start an island-wide bike rental service. Cafe Loysel's Toy and the Red Dot Design Museum are some of the partners who have hopped on board.

"The point of getting more people on board this plan is to offer people multiple bike return points," he said.

"This is in line with my philosophy when I first started LifeCycle - that the bicycle is the medium to go to places," Mr Siah said.

fjieying@sph.com.sg


Get The New Paper for more stories.