Shoppers stumble over tricky store names

What do women's fashion stores Sum+hing Difrent and et-i-kit, as well as lifestyle household product retailer Spur Hauswerks have in common?

They are Singapore retailers bearing unusual names that may prove a challenge to pronounce for some. Yet, many companies setting up shop here have adopted such newfangled names in recent years.

Benedict Lim, creative director of women's fashion store et-i-kit, said that people get the shop name wrong all the time.

Founded last year, the store derives its name from the dictionary pronunciation of the word "etiquette", which Mr Lim said is a "commonly mispronounced word".

Despite this, he felt that "the shop name can be a conversation starter between friends".

Shaun Tan, retail manager of bespoke shoe store ed et al, said its unique name helps sales "to a certain extent", but being a Singapore company has helped as well.

Founded in 2010, the store's name means "Edwin and the others". The two founders of the company share the same name: Edwin.

"Different customers pronounce the name differently due to the way they enunciate 'et al', but generally, we are able to understand (them)," Mr Tan said.

Spur Hauswerks co-founder Aiden Hopfner said that the store has not had anyone mispronounce its brand name "too dramatically". The store opened in Singapore last year.

"I think our store's unique name helps people remember us. Our branding is also unique, so once people see it, they tend to remember us," said Mr Hopfner.

When presented with a list of six distinctive Singapore shop names, some consumers whom My Paper spoke to could barely manage to pronounce a third of them right, while a few could pronounce none.

Many said they preferred names that were easy to pronounce and remember.

Others - like 25-year-old architect Zhang Xiao Pei, who said that having an unusual shop name is "good for marketing as it is interesting" - found unique names thought-provoking.

Having a distinctive name can prove rewarding, as retail store tracyeinny shows. It started out online in 2007.

The name combines former collaborator Tracy's name with current co-director Jeannie's, according to co-director Pamela Goi.

The thirty-year-old said that the store's unique name has helped sales, especially with the "einny" part of the name, because "it has a ring to it".

Marketing and branding experts said having an unusual store name could go either way.

Chris Martell, managing director of shopper marketing agency Geometry Global Singapore, pointed out that "distinctive naming should be about conveying a concept of what the retailer has to offer, rather than simply trying to be different".

There are other factors to consider as well. Hannah Chang, assistant professor of marketing at the Singapore Management University's Lee Kong Chian School of Business, said the effectiveness of exotic names for marketing purposes depends on the type of product the brand is selling, as well as the target audience.

For instance, Prof Chang said that a study done in Canada in 2012 found that wine consumers place more value on wines with tongue-twisting names, as they subconsciously believed that "wine bottles with unfamiliar names are rarer".

Psychology research shows that brands that are easy to pronounce also tend to be interpreted as less "risky" compared with brands that are more difficult to pronounce, Prof Chang added.

She said that consumers may not be willing to take risks when it comes to food, so food products with simple names might do better.

"But a hard-to-pronounce name might make a roller-coaster ride sound more adventurous and exciting," said Prof Chang.

Can you say these names right?

Can you pronounce the names of these local stores correctly and guess what they sell?

1. et-i-kit

2. tracyeinny

3. enVie de Pois

4. Spur Hauswerks

5. Sum+hing Difrent

6. ed et al


1. "At-tee-curt" with the "r" being silent; sells clothes from several international labels.

2."Tracy in-knee"; sells women's fashion.

3. "On vee dee phua"; sells women's fashion.

4.Officially pronounced "spur house works". While hauswerks is a German word, it is not pronounced the German way, "house verks". Spur Hauswerks sells lifestyle home products.

5. "Something different"; sells women's fashion.

6."Ed ett ell"; sells bespoke men's and women's shoes.

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