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Club 21: Singapore’s Original Multi-Brand Retailer

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  • BoF Team

SINGAPORE — Founded in 1972 by internationally renowned retailer and entrepreneur Christina Ong, Club 21 began as a small boutique in Singapore's Tanglin Shopping Centre. Over the next four decades, Club 21 has expanded across the Asia-Pacific region, to include doors in Australia, mainland China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and South Korea. Club 21 pioneered international multi-brand retail in its native Singapore, and did much in educating and informing Singapore's menswear consumer base. Although a comparatively late entrant into the e-commerce market in 2012, Club 21 has invested significantly in the sector and continues to impressively grow its online operations.

BoF sat down with Christopher Cheong, creative director of Club 21 menswear.

BoF: How has Club 21 maintained its market position?

CC: Our forte is in our sound understanding of what our markets demand, how consumption patterns have evolved and what is trending now. These insights inform the way we edit our buys and the way we present and curate our collection in a manner that engages our customers. We are an authoritative voice in the markets in which Club 21 Menswear are present. We have also been very game-changing in terms of introducing new and directional designers to our markets, an approach that our male customers have come to expect of us over the years. There are few, if none, others that come close to the scale of what we can and do offer in terms of product range, service and shop experience since we started.

BoF: What key considerations do you take into account when buying

CC: In terms of the brand mix, we are always very mindful that our edits every season cover a spectrum of price points, style propositions, product categories, and new and established names. We are always on the lookout for brands that have a unique and strong point of view in what they are. As we are one of the pioneers who championed the Japanese labels in the markets we are in, these brands do well for us, as do many names from all over the world that are different and unusual from your run-of-the-mill designers.

BoF: How does pioneering new brands fit in with servicing your consumers?

CC: When we buy, we don't simply buy what we think he'll like but, more importantly, what we think he should know about even before he knows he wants it. As an authority in menswear, we’d like to think that we take our customers along on our ongoing stylistic journey to discover, to evolve and to grow. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Having said that, there are obvious differences in buying patterns as dictated by cultural and other factors and these become parameters to guide our buys. Across the world, we, as menswear retailers, are looking at roughly the same consumer — style savvy, well-travelled, discerning and appreciates quality.

BoF: How have you integrated technology into the Club 21 retail proposition?

CC: The advancement of technology has raised customer expectations and we strive to deliver an enhanced experience with our offerings. Technology can help provide and deliver a 360-degree brand experience, if used correctly. Sales personnel are equipped with relevant data and knowledge such as buying history and profiles of the customer. They use an iPad to demonstrate and explain the product details, taking the opportunity to upsell and provide other value-added services to enhance the overall customer experience. We work closely with our brick-and-mortar stores to provide a streamlined experience for our customers in terms of offerings and continually encouraging them to purchase across the offline and online stores, thereby providing them with a seamless, 24/7 round-the-clock experience. We provide our stores with smart tablets for store personnel to showcase as well as sell our online offerings thereby providing potential additional sales at their fingertips.

BoF: How established is the store’s e-commerce offer?

CC: Our e-commerce business was launched during the Autumn-Winter 2012 season and is under two years old. We currently ship to eight markets in the region and carry over 70 brands online across womenswear and menswear and accessories. Our menswear business has seen significant progress, increasing over 150 percent over the last year, and now comprises approximately 40 percent of our total e-commerce sales.

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