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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Power outlet

A slew of popular brands is making its way into the outlet scene in Singapore.
The Straits Times - March 25, 2013
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Power outlet

Agnes b., Banana Republic, Coach, Marella and Sacoor Brothers are among newlabels that have set up shop in IMM in the last few months, either with stand-alone stores or as part of multi-label outlets.

This is the first time these brands, most of which occupy the segment between high street and high fashion, are selling their merchandise in Singapore via factory outlet stores.

The influx is part of IMM's strategy to rebrand itself as Singapore's biggest outlet mall. It is at the tail end of a year-long, $30 million revamp that began in May last year.

It currently houses 39 outlet stores and will have 50 in May, when the renovation is scheduled to be completed.

Mr Chew Hock Chye, IMM's general manager, says: "Outlet stores combine the two loves of Singaporeans - shopping and good value. They offer people the convenience of outlet shopping without them having to leave the country."

He declines to give figures but says the stores have helped to draw traffic. IMM's unique positioning as an outlet mall, he adds, complements the nearby JCube and upcoming Westgate mall - all three are operated by CapitaMalls Asia.

Before IMM, Anchorpoint and Changi City Point, both operated by Frasers Centrepoint Malls, were the main players in the outlet scene here, with eight and 14 outlet stores respectively.

However, they feature mostly mass retailers, such as Charles & Keith, Cotton On, Fox and Giordano, whose products already start at low prices. Frasers Centrepoint Malls declines to give details on its brand selection and how these stores have fared.

IMM, in comparison, offers more covetable brands such as Agnes b., Coach, DSquared2 and Max Mara.

The other nearest outlet mall offering similar labels is in Malaysia - the Johor Premium Outlets, which opened in December 2011.

Brands at IMM say they were offered the right opportunity at the right time to open their first outlet shops in Singapore.

French label Agnes b. opened its first outlet branch here two weeks ago. The 2,000 sq ft shop offers merchandise from two seasons ago, as well as clothing and accessories exclusive to its outlet stores. Discounts range from 30 to 70 per cent off retail prices.

Mr Felix Siow, brand manager of Agnes b. Singapore, says the label already had plans to open an outlet store here last year. "We felt that there was potential, judging from the good response to our bazaar sales."

IMM, he says, offers the ideal space, location and crowd.

He does not want to give figures but says sales in the past two weeks have been within expectations, with bags from the Voyage line and small leather goods being the bestsellers.

The factory outlet business, however, is a sensitive topic for some labels.

Coach, the popular American bag brand, opened a pop-up factory outlet store in IMM last October but declines to comment for this story. Bags and other leather goods for men and women that used to retail at about $200 to $1,000 are now going for 20 to 50 per cent off. The shop has a year-long lease on the space.

While regular leases at IMM run for three years, both Coach and IMM have declined to comment on their lease agreement. But Urban understands that the Coach store has reserved the space for one year.

The Kwang Sia group, which distributes Marella, Max & Co, Max Mara and DSquared2 in Singapore, opened a store in the mall in January.

Under the store name The Sale Shop, the group sells merchandise from up to three years ago at prices 60 to 80 per cent less.

Kwang Sia signed up for only two months when the space became available for a short time, so its store will close at the end of this month.

Another outlet store is slated to occupy the space when Kwang Sia leaves, but IMM cannot name the retailer as the deal has not been inked.

American brands Gap, Banana Republic and Guess are selling past-season stocks at up to 70 per cent off at the FJB Outlet, which opened in January. The FJ Benjamin Group distributes the labels here.

Mr Richard Gan, marketing executive of Gap and Banana Republic, says: "We have used other avenues, such as off-site sales, to clear inventory. While these have been effective, we wanted to offer our customers a better and more conventional format."

More brands, including British label French Connection and French fashion brands Naf Naf and Tila March, will come on board within the next two months.

The brands will be available at a multi-label outlet shop called La Boutique, which will be operated by local distributor Kai Yan.

Retail experts say the demand for outlet stores here will grow as more Singaporeans travel and become used to scooping up bargains at factory outlets overseas.

However, the lack of space in crowded Singapore may prove to be a problem, says Dr Lynda Wee, an adjunct associate professor in retailing at Nanyang Technological University's Nanyang Business School.

"Outlet malls require large spaces and relatively cheaper rentals. They operate on low margins and get together with other brands to offer families the option of a shopping destination," she says.

The alternative, therefore, is to find more remote locations for these malls. "They are excellent for drawing shoppers, thereby generating crowds for developing a township," she adds.

But Ms Sarah Lim, a senior retail lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic, cautions that outlet malls have to be mindful of their overall presentation and offerings.

"Otherwise, they may just be perceived as a dumping ground for products. This will tarnish the image and goodwill of the retailers as well as the mall."

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