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Mall Than Fengshui Or Location For Retail Success

JASON likes to wander in shopping malls. He stops to browse the window displays, he observes the crowds and he tries to identify the factors that attract shoppers.

As a Retail Executive Scholar, Jason Koh Guang Ming, 24, is passionate about Retail both as an academic subject and as a practical skill to manage a business.

Some shops and malls are always crowded and alive with business, he observes. And yet, the shop next door or the adjacent mall could be dead as a dodo. So, success is more than good location or the right “alignments” in fengshui. Jason suggests some pointers that help determine success whether in the mall or among individual shops:

  1. Conveniences: For a mall to draw a constant crowd, the management must offer petite conveniences that make life easier for shoppers, such as a shuttle service to the nearest MRT station, ample parking lots, clear directional signs, clean, spacious toilets and seats along passageways.
  2. Rewards: Mall management provides discount vouchers and loyalty programmes, or even free first two hours parking.
  3. Mix: The mall has many different outlets offering diverse products and services, from electronics and DIY hardware to hairdressing and latte.
  4. Innovations: Individual retailers in the mall regularly come up with creative window displays and merchandise promotion.
  5. Technology: Retailers use technology such as RFID tags to improve inventory tracking and security.

Mall than fengshui or location for retail success
Jason in one of his favourite malls, Causeway Point, in Woodlands

Learning On The Job

Jason is in Year 2 full-time of the University of Stirling’s BA (Hons) in Retail Marketing at SIM Global Education. Before that, he worked for five years as retail assistant at Popular Book Store. “I did not receive formal training like a full-time staff but learnt through observation and performing the task on hand,” he says of his early days at the store.

This learning by observation has since become an obsession and Jason now spends much of his free time in his favourite malls such as Causeway Point in Woodlands and Jurong Point to observe the rapid changes in the retail landscape.

He graduates next year (2016) and hopes to be a merchandiser or buyer. “This kind of job is the most interesting in retail,” he says. “The merchandiser is responsible for buying, pricing and display. So, sales very much depends on the merchandiser’s foresight in identifying products that shoppers want, in pricing the products correctly, and in ensuring they are displayed in the most attractive manner.”

While working at Popular, Jason also studied for a Diploma in Business Informatics at Nanyang Polytechnic. The programme was a hybrid course that covered both aspects of Business and IT, he explains. “It provided me valuable insight on Internet Marketing, Customer Relationship Management, e-commerce (Internet Retailing) and the IT aspects of business software systems.”

He realised early on the emerging trend of Retail and e-Commence coming together as one, which is now known as Omni-Channel Retailing. This convinced him that Retail Marketing is a viable, long-term career, so he decided to study further in this field.

During his student days at Nanyang Poly, he heard from a lecturer about the retail marketing degree programme being offered by Stirling at Nanyang. The programme was then moved to SIM GE. The Workforce Development Agency (WDA) was offering several scholarship places for this programme. Jason applied and won the scholarship which covered 90% of his course fees.

The Retail Marketing degree course is conducted by Stirling’s Institute of Retail Studies, an acknowledged Centre of Excellence with close links to the Singapore Retailers Association and Singapore Institute of Retail Studies.

“Many relatives and friends did ask why I wanted to work in Retail. The hours are long and weekends are burnt (since weekends are prime time for shopping). The pay is low, and there are few benefits.

“Well, there are some advantages in Retail. For instance, the typical hierarchy of a retail company comprises many job levels, from frontline services to back office jobs. So with a retail degree, there are opportunities for me to move up the corporate ladder.”

Retail Modules

Jason mentions two specific modules that he finds interesting and enjoyable to learn. The first is Retail Buying which teaches the art and strategy in purchasing. “I would like a job as a Buyer, and this module is just right for me.

“My other favourite module is Retail Logistics that provides an overview of the supply chain in the industry. It is important for us to understand the production flow of individual products from the raw material components to the finished, packed goods on the shelf.”

Retailing is a broad subject, and the supporting activities and tasks are complex. “The key to success is to be lean and agile and look into the big picture of supply chain as a whole. In whatever retail sector you are engaged in, the basic concepts are the same. Hence, the need for me to do well in my studies, and perhaps get at least a Second Upper Class Honours.”

Benefits Of Retail Studies

“The benefits of this programme will be that when I graduate, I will be equipped with the relevant knowledge to work immediately in this industry. My qualification will serve as a stepping stone to gain direct entry into certain positions.

“For example, if I have only a diploma, the most I can hope for is a post as retail supervisor or something similar. With a Bachelor, I can ask for a management-level job, since I would have possessed a good theoretical foundation that was supplemented by the experience of part-time work I did at a Lego toy shop and an Apple Store during semester breaks.”

On SIM campus, Jason volunteered as a Student Representative, helping out during important campus events such as the bi-annual Open House. A Student Rep handles “customer service”, as he or she meets parents and prospective students, answers their queries and nudges them in coming to the right decision on further education.

On a regular basis, Jason also served as a Student Involvement Representative to encourage other students to join the various clubs or sports in SIM. CCA participation provides an opportunity to take up leadership roles to manage student activity projects, which would certainly look good on the resume when the student graduates and starts looking for a job.

— Posted online, November 04, 2015