Designing for Success

CapitaMalls Asia's second Retail Global Connexion focuses on design's role in business success

Issue: Dec 2012

The speakers captivated the audience with their designing for success stories, which was followed by a lively Q&A session
The speakers captivated the audience with their designing for success stories, which was followed by a lively Q&A session

With rapt attention, some 1,000 retailers from Singapore and the region, as well as local tertiary students, listened to the success stories shared by some of the world's most recognisable retail brands at Retail Global Connexion 2012 on 8 November. This year, CapitaMalls Asia's forum at Raffles City Convention Centre sought to inform and inspire with the theme "By Design".

"Following the success of our inaugural Retail Global Connexion last year, we wanted to show that retailers with the right business model and execution can achieve great success. Hence, this year's theme showcases how retailers have designed their success with their business strategies and excellence in execution," said Mr Lim Beng Chee, CEO, CapitaMalls Asia.

Mr Lim Beng Chee, CEO, CapitaMalls Asia welcomed the guests at the second Retail Global Connexion 2012
Mr Lim Beng Chee, CEO, CapitaMalls Asia welcomed the guests at the second Retail Global Connexion 2012

"Our shopping malls are not merely buildings, but an embodiment of society's aspirations. This will serve to motivate people to work hard, to be able to afford their dreams. And the people who help make malls successful are the retailers and their staff," added Mr Liew Mun Leong, Chairman of CapitaMalls Asia. "At CapitaMalls Asia, we design the success of our shopping malls by ensuring that they continually meet shoppers' evolving aspirations and needs, as well as cater to different shopper segments, even though they may be located near each other," Mr Lim added.

Apart from serving as a platform for investors and business partners to network, this year's forum again aimed to attract tertiary students to join the retail industry. A mini job fair, the first for the forum, was organised with recruitment booths set up by MUJI, Robinsons and Spa Esprit. Hundreds of full and part-time jobs such as management trainees, marketing executives and retail assistants were offered.

Designing for Success

Co-founders of Crumpler, Dave Roper and Will Miller, shared how they went from a courier company to developing popular and trendy messenger bags
Co-founders of Crumpler, Dave Roper and Will Miller, shared how they went from a courier company to developing popular and trendy messenger bags
Photo Credit : www.crumpler.com

Famed for its innovative and trendy bags, co-founders of Crumpler, Dave Roper and Will Miller, shared how the company developed from a single product - messenger bags for bike courier companies. The Melbourne natives were fresh out of high school with no desire to further their education in the late 1980s.

They started a bike courier service that became the foundation of Crumpler. From the start, the pair understood the importance of design to branding.

"The strong image of our brand was to have a striking uniform," said Roper.

Part of the look, of course, was the courier bag. It was during their search for serviceable yet fashionable bags that they met Stuart Crumpler who was working for them as a messenger. He suggested designing their own bags.

Crumpler brought to his designs inspirations from road signs such as bold colours, stripes, and the use of heavy duty material and metal. He also contributed the stick figure that is now the company's logo. These have become so iconic to the brand that has since expanded to include laptop bags, camera bags and luggage and travel bags.

The co-founders also talked about the importance of finding retail partners to sell their designs. Crumpler has two stores in CapitaMalls.

"We take time and care to choose whom we work with," said Miller.

For top Italian brand, Salvatore Ferragamo, design remains a priority that drives innovation and creates value
For top Italian brand, Salvatore Ferragamo, design remains a priority that drives innovation and creates value

Another business that has been built on a passion for design is Italian luxury goods brand, Salvatore Ferragamo.

"My father was driven by design," said Massimo Ferragamo, Chairman of Ferragamo USA on the founder of the brand, Salvatore Ferragamo. "Since he was a child, he had an incredible passion for making shoes."

In fact, the late Ferragamo senior made his first pairs of shoes for his sisters for their first Holy Communion when he was just eight because the family was too poor to afford any. He would go on to make shoes for Hollywood actors and actresses in the 1920s, incorporating creative styles with innovative materials.

"Design has to be continuously innovative. But it doesn't have to be revolutionary. Re-inventing things is also something of value," said Ferragamo.

>MUJI shared its philosophy behind its products and designs, which are sought after for their simplicity
MUJI shared its philosophy behind its products and designs, which are sought after for their simplicity

Representing a brand from the East was Masaaki Kanai, President of MUJI. The Japanese company is known for its minimalist lifestyle and household products, emphasising recycling and minimising wastage with a "no brand" policy. Started in 1980 with just 40 products, MUJI now boasts more than 7,000 items. The retail company has also expanded into fashion and home furnishing.

"MUJI is about simplicity. We give our customers the basic things they need for their daily lives in a no-frills, fuss-free fashion. Instead, we believe in using quality material," said Kanai of MUJI's design philosophy.

At the Q & A session, participants questioned that design philosophy vis-à-vis the affordability of MUJI products: if everything is kept so simple, why are MUJI products still so pricey?

"To keep costs low, we need a stronger supply chain. We ask all our customers to bear with us for a while," was Kanai's humble reply.

This year's Q & A employed technology to keep things interactive. Participants could register their questions online. They could also view the questions posted and vote for the ones they liked best. Within the time allocated for Q & A, the questions with the highest votes stood a higher chance of being picked to be answered.

General Manager of Broadcast: Zheng Zheng, introduced one of China’s top brands to the international audience

General Manager of Broadcast: 播, Zheng Zheng, introduced one of China’s top brands to the international audience
Photo Credit : Broadcast: 播

Representing growing Chinese clothing company, Broadcast: 播, was General Manager, Zheng Zheng. Established in Guangzhou in 1997, the ready-to-wear label is now one of China's top brands with over 30 boutiques and 500 retail outlets throughout the country.

"Our brand is about creative, value-for-money quality products," said Zheng. "Our designs incorporate traditional Chinese influences into modern styles."

With bright colours and whimsical Oriental touches, their designs clearly touched a chord with shoppers. Broadcast: 播 has since ventured out of China with Singapore as its first stop.

Relevance by Design

Jim McCallum, Country Head (Asia) of the United Arab Emirates-based Al-Futtaim Group which owns Robinsons, giving the audience the secret of the 154-year-old store’s enduring success
Jim McCallum, Country Head (Asia) of the United Arab Emirates-based Al-Futtaim Group which owns Robinsons, giving the audience the secret of the 154-year-old store’s enduring success

For Robinsons, staying relevant by design has been the secret of the 154-year-old department store's success.

The store that brought Raleigh bicycles to colonial Singapore, giving locals a chance at cheap transportation and made Christmas one of the most unforgettable shopping experiences in the tropics, stays ahead of the trend curve by "listening to customers".

"We build relationships with our customers. To adapt to their needs, we gather real-time information," said Jim McCallum, Country Head (Asia) of the United Arab Emirates-based Al-Futtaim Group which owns Robinsons.

"I've always admired the work CapitaMalls does in the retail sector in Singapore and internationally. It's truly an organisation at the vanguard which consistently pushes boundaries to inspire innovation," commented McCallum.

Homegrown beauty and F & B group, Spa Esprit Group, impressed the crowd with its barrage of innovative concepts, designs and business strategies
Homegrown beauty and F & B group, Spa Esprit Group, impressed the crowd with its barrage of innovative concepts, designs and business strategies
Photo Credit : Spa Esprit Group

For homegrown beauty and F & B group, Spa Esprit Group, which is behind brands such as Strip, Browhaus, Skinny Pizza, Tiong Bahru Bakery and Forty Hands, evolution is also key to its growth. Cynthia Chua, founder and Managing Director; and Brand Director, Jerry De Souza, talked about how innovative designs feature significantly in the company’s business strategy.

"Our ability to focus on design has worked well for us and created a strong competitive edge. Design is seen in our window displays, our furniture, and even in how our food is displayed. Making design tangible to customers has become our winning formula,” said De Souza.

Through unique designs, the Group creates one-of-a-kind experiences for its customers, he added. Its Strip and Browhaus stores, for example, each have different designs, logos and even uniforms. When the Airbus A380 was launched, it inspired the Group to come up with a store "encapsulating the whole experience" complete with a business-class lounge, duty-free shopping, and serving drinks off a trolley.

Design in its broadest sense of creating a product, a brand, an identity that customers can identify has certainly helped these companies design their success. That kind of innovative spirit is certainly an inspiration to all in the retail business.

A full house - some 1,000 retailers from Singapore and the region, as well as local tertiary students listened attentively to the success stories shared by the eight guests brought in for the Retail Global Connexion 2012
A full house - some 1,000 retailers from Singapore and the region, as well as local tertiary students listened attentively to the success stories shared by the eight guests brought in for the Retail Global Connexion 2012
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