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New retail concepts take off in Asia

Unmanned stores, integration of e-commerce and a central focus on mobile shopping are shaping new retail trends in Asia

New retail concepts take off in Asia

Winstone Chee of Walmart China and Yoep Man of Sam's Club are pioneering a new retail concept using membership fees 

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Integration of online and physical shopping, unmanned stores and membership systems are paving the way for a new era of shopping thanks to pioneering retailers in Asia.

Representatives from Ali Baba-owned Hema Supermarket and Walmart’s Sam’s Club spoke at the Asiafruit Congress session on retail, taking place today (5 September) in Hong Kong, with case studies on how their companies are building successful modern retail concepts.

Hema Supermarket’s Paul Sheh said: “For Hema, we have two integrations: firstly, the integration of supermarket and restaurant – if you order a lobster we can cook it and you can eat it in store. The other integration is online and offline, you can order online and it will be delivered within 30 minutes, or you can visit a physical store.”

To cater for this comprehensive structure, Sheh told delegates that a Hema store has four managers, who cover daily operations, logistics, restaurant, and social media and marketing.

“We have very aggressive expansion plans over the next few years. I guess in the next few years we will open thousands of new stores,” he added.

Another pioneering retail concept is Chinese retailer Sam’s Club’s ‘membership’ system, where shoppers pay a fee to be able to shop in the chain’s so-called clubs.

Members of Sam’s Club benefit from unique aspects in the shopping experience such as new varieties that are exclusive to Sam’s Club, as well as the chance to buy products in bulk, according to the company’s Yoep Man.

“We sell our items in bulk so we can offer members value for membership. And we can work with our suppliers in a strategic way because of this. We are not investing in our own farms, we are working in a different way with limited SKUs and high volume products,” said Man.

Part of the Walmart Group, the Sam’s Club concept has been highly successful across China, Man said, with its top store reaching an annual turnover of US $400 million.

Tasting and sampling is an integral part of Sam’s Club, Man added. “We sell a lot of new items, new varieties that are not available to anyone else in the market, so tastings are very important to us. And that’s something that an e-commerce player cannot offer.”

IGD Singapore’s Shirley Zhu said the first unmanned stores are being trialled across the continent, including by convenience chain 7-Eleven in South Korea, as well as in China and Singapore.

While still in the early stages, the trend for unmanned stores will continue to grow in Asia, said Zhu, alongside convenience concepts such as Click and Collect lockers in stores that are diversifying into dispensing medicine, as well as acting as parcel and grocery collection points.

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