In Focus
COMMERCIAL PROPERTY | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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This experiential pop-up store selling plants took over Hermes' space in Scott's square

More experiential store offerings are in the pipeline with the launch of Decathlon’s Singapore Lab, Don Don Donki’s freshly baked meals, and Home Fix’s DIY furniture shop.

Taking over the 2,800 sq ft space previously occupied by luxury retailer Hermes, Mosscape Concept is yet another addition to the growing experiential concepts occupying Singapore’s retail scene. Mosscape Concept allowed customers to peruse preserved plants, attend workshops to learn about the art of creating terrariums and experience a curated farm-to-fork takeaway menu with locally-grown produce. 

The emergence of such experiential retail concepts is starting to permeate many other industries beyond those seen in the high street – from sports goods Decathlon to supermarket chain Cold Storage – and analysts contend that shifting consumer tastes are driving the momentum.

Mosscape Concept is the brainchild of Nyee Phoe Group, a family business specialising in horticulture and landscape services. It will be open from 1 April to 30 June. 

“Brick-and-mortar stores that go beyond transactional functions by providing an interactive, value-adding experience are the future of retailing in the highly dynamic retail industry,” said Deepika Chandrasekar, analyst at Euromonitor International. “Not only does the offering of an in-store experiential element entice and engage customers, but it also does justice to the high rental costs that retailers face in land-scarce Singapore and the flat retail sentiment.”

In the case of Mosscape Concept, the pop-up store not only engages visitors with an array of eye-catching plants that would beautify Singaporean homes, but also serves up an exclusive menu of salads and food products. Visitors are also enticed to come back again through a line-up of seminars led by experts espousing a healthier lifestyle.

Chandrasekar reckoned that the experiential retail trend is driven by the fact that whilst physical stores and shopping malls in Singapore still see customer traffic, these same stores have fallen behind their regional counterparts in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur in terms of the attractions and entertainment that they offer. The spate of store revamps seen across Singapore could then be taken as the country’s way of catching up to a global trend towards higher customer expectations when stepping into a physical store.

“Simply offering high quality products in stores or online does not do the trick for consumers anymore,” she said. “The highly demanding and time-starved Singaporeans are increasingly expecting an engaging and value-for-time experience more than value-for-money experience during their limited time in stores.”

Meanwhile, French sporting goods retailer Decathlon is similarly riding on the trend with the launch of a 5,000 sqm store called the Decathlon Singapore Lab, which lets customers test the products they have on display in free-to-play experience zones. The brand is also offering free sports clinics, competitions, and fitness programs in its expansive activity areas, which includes a football pitch and a basketball court. Decathlon has also equipped its new store with features to support the online-to-offline experience, so customers could place an order on the online site then collect the products in their preferred stores within two hours and without added charge.

Retailers embracing the experiential retail trend benefit not only from higher store footfall but also an upswing in loyal customers, according to Chandrasekar, citing the positive response when improvement retailer Home Fix launched a Do-It-With-You service as an experiential concept. She said the workshops teaching customers how to fix and assemble furniture themselves have seen good participation rates due to their immersive quality. “Customers feel more involved and entertained when they are included in the whole retail experience and viewed as co-creators.”

The boom of online shopping, especially amongst younger consumers, is also serving as a catalyst for experiential brick-and-mortar stores, according to Shirley Zhu, programme director at IGD Asia.

She noted that Japanese retailer Don Don Donki, which is famous for its baked sweet potatoes, uses the power of smell to draw people into the store when they walk out of the MRT station. “They can then browse through a wide variety of products that are made and designed in Japan and also enjoy a meal at the store.”

Meanwhile, at beauty retailer Sephora, visitors can explore new products and make-up styles in dedicated brow and lip bars, either by themselves or with assistance from beauty consultants.

Zhu reckoned that brands need to understand the best technologies that will have the biggest impact on their category, and incorporate these in their experiential store planning. “Physical stores need to adapt to this change to remain relevant and can do this in a number of ways: creating better experiences in-store through deploying technology to improve the store environment, offering new and unique services, and through seamlessly integrating online operations with the physical environment.”

Zhu noted that supermarket chain Cold Storage has installed a digital weighing scale in its latest store that identifies the fruit type automatically – a convenience for shoppers that previously had to scroll through a product list. She expects experiential retail trends to further intensify as online grocery sales continue to expand and gain market share over the next five years.

“As more people shop online, retailers will change the space dynamics in their stores to accommodate for this behaviour,” said Zhu. “Stores will act as fulfillment centres, while also serving shoppers through improved fresh food, experiential category experiences, enhanced digital features and strong foodservice offer.”

However, Chandrasekar cautioned that experiential retailers face the challenge of constantly pushing out new concepts in their stores to remain ahead of rivals. “Some in-store efforts that are already underway by players or are planned to materialise soon include event spaces for workshops, food and wine tasting bars, and activity-based mall tenants like virtual reality arcades.” 

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