The closure of Robinsons in Singapore after a 162-year run shows just how fragile the retail scene is in the wake of Covid-19 and changing consumer habits. Without a doubt, retailers and designers are rethinking new ways of drawing crowds into their stores.
Inevitably, many fashion brands (including reputable houses) have pivoted online by going big or enhancing the digital retail experience, as footfall at brick-and-mortar stores went hush during the lockdown.
A report by global payments platform Adyen revealed that online shopping in Singapore has proven to be popular during the pandemic, with 49 per cent of respondents making purchases via the Internet – a figure that is above the global average of 33 per cent.
Lisa Von Tang’s new showroom is situated in a pre-war shophouse in the Robertson Quay area.
Enter the concept store which is a well-designed space that not only stocks merchandise but also imbues a sense of lifestyle with its curation; it’s the perfect salve for the lack of human touch that is missing in the digital retail realm.
In the past year alone, FEMALE has counted at least five new concept stores that have sprung out in the homegrown retail scene. Among them is the minimalist-looking Ginlee Studio at Great World City and the Beyond The Vines Design Store at Takashimaya Shopping Centre. Then there is Chamber at Wisma Atria – a temple of streetwear/sneakers that could very well pass off as an art gallery with its Rene Magritte-esque cloud prints on the walls and shelves.
In a recent report in The Straits Times, Singapore Polytechnic’s School of Business lecturer Lim Xiu Ru noted that while consumer behaviour is increasingly shifting online, there is still room for the physical retail landscape to thrive.
The Beyond The Vines Design Studio at Takashimaya Shopping Centre marks a new chapter for the Singapore label as it evolves from a ready-to-wear label for women into a design studio.
“Some consumers have also come to realise during the circuit breaker period that they would like to immerse themselves in the physical shopping environment so that they can touch, feel, ascertain the design and quality of certain products prior to making a purchase,” she said.
“We crave newness and these days, it’s the experiences that bring us more joy over material things.”Melissa Goh, a shopper to the new Ginlee Studio concept store at Great World City
It is a sentiment that Ayrin Widjaja, a customer who recently visited the newly-opened Lisa Von Tang shophouse echoes. She says: “Concept stores are much more immersive, personal, and authentic than typical stores found in malls. Instead of just the expected store experience, you get to shop amazingly designed clothes and dive deep into the brand’s spirit.”
While we can’t say for certain that concept stores are the frontier that will dictate our new normal when it comes to shopping, it is clear that they are gaining traction among the more discerning – and perhaps demanding – shoppers of today.
Melissa Goh, who visited Ginlee Studio puts it simply: “We crave newness and these days, it’s the experiences that bring us more joy over material things.” The label, which is known for its pleated items feature a shop-cum-workshop design with a built-in steamer that allows shoppers to see the pleats done on-the-spot.
Below, we spotlight the newest homegrown fashion concept stores that have popped up over the last few months and speak to their founders/designers about how they’re doing things differently and for their hot takes on the concept store movement.