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Bringing the beach lifestyle to Singapore

Posted By Administration, Monday, 3 March 2014
Updated: Thursday, 20 February 2014

Seafolly is one of the world’s most recognised swimwear and beach lifestyle brands, spanning the broad international market in more than 30 countries. This fully-owned Australian family-run business has been at the epicentre of Australian beach lifestyle since its inception in 1975. AustCham member and Business Development Manager for Seafolly, Gina Astee, has been responsible for bringing this iconic Aussie brand to Singapore.

"Seafolly epitomises Australia’s beach lifestyle, so being Australian is who we are – we are proud of our beach culture and the role that Seafolly has played in introducing that culture to the world and now Asia,” says Gina.

Seafolly Singapore launched at Takashimaya Department Store in November 2010. Following the success of its space in Takashimaya, Seafolly opened its first flagship store outside of Australia in June 2011 in Wisma Atria.

"The success of Seafolly is without question its ability to suit everybody, every age and equip every woman or girl to hit the water with its mix and match range,” says Gina.

"We cater to size DD to petite and, rather than sell swimwear in sets, we sell in pieces so customers can not only find the perfect fit, but also create their own style by putting together different pieces from the range."

Like many expats, Gina was surprised by the lack of swimwear choices available and the high cost of what was on offer when she moved to Singapore.

"The distributors were charging almost double of what I would pay for the same swimsuit at home. When we opened at Takashimaya we were offering fashion forward swimwear and beach apparel in sizes to fit the local customer, but also the bigger expats at price parity. It was a win-win,” explains Gina.

Working in Singapore has definitely bought its challenges. Gina explains: "The paperwork is overwhelming – the signatures, the chops are all very frustrating to someone embarking in retail in Singapore for the first time. Finding good staff has been key and it is a rocky road to find local staff that understand your requirements. It was difficult setting up, but it was a huge learning curve and I’m now getting ready to do it all again”.

"It has been very exciting watching Seafolly become so accepted by the locals, but also the visiting Asian tourists – the Chinese are really starting to understand Seafolly and that is very exciting,” says Gina, who adds that another highlight is seeing Australians pleased and relieved to discover Seafolly is in Singapore.

In terms of marketing its product, Gina explains that Seafolly is an international brand and it follows an international strategy with a few tweaks for local festivals such as Chinese New Year.

"We have created a red-inspired window specifically for Singapore. We don’t have winter here so we don’t follow the Australian time line completely by ranging the winter wear and so on. We also buy stock slightly differently for each market.

"Although we stock the full range in Singapore, we do tweak the sizes and styles – Singaporeans tend to be a tad more conservative than the average Aussie beach goer.”

Gina describes Seafolly’s launch in Singapore as "an amazing adventure”.

"I feel very excited and honoured to be part of the birth of such a great brand in Singapore and I am super excited to see how the brand continues to grow,” says Gina.

Seafolly’s next opening in Singapore will be at Robinsons at Raffles City so, as Gina says, "the adventure continues”.

For more stories about 'The Singapore Story', click here 

To learn about the benefits of membership to AustCham, click here

To check out our coming events, click here

Tags:  Bringing the beach lifestyle to Singapore  Gina Astee  Seafolly  The Singapore Story 

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Making light work

Posted By Administration, Thursday, 20 February 2014

In the 1970s, Paul McCloskey began to imagine the possibilities for lasers in the entertainment and major events industries. In 1984 he patented his inventions, including an innovative and unique way to harness the power of laser energy, and founded Laservision. Since then, many millions of people around the world have experienced a spectacular laser light creation from Laservision.

According to Laservision’s Singapore-based Director of Projects and Marketing, Shannon Brooks, Laservision’s projects now range from one night events to multimillion dollar permanent installations located in exotic locations all around the world.

Laservision has had a presence in Singapore since the 1990s, when they designed and completed the famous Musical Fountain at Sentosa. With a large proportion of their enquiries originating from the South East Asia region, and the launch of its most recent flagship project ‘Wonder Full’ at the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort, Laservision established a branch office here in 2010 to provide full support for the show and increase its on ground presence in Asia.

"One of the challenges of opening a new business in Asia is finding the correct human resources; people who excel at their jobs, but also fit within the company culture that has developed from more than 30 years’ experience in the entertainment industry,” says Shannon.

"Often we look for attributes like enthusiasm, tenacity and lateral thinking skills when looking to hire new employees, as these extraordinary individuals will help the team achieve extraordinary results.”

Having opened a highly successful business in Singapore, Shannon has a few tips for others.

"When staffing the office, ensure you are thorough with your screening process and take your time interviewing potential candidates to find out what makes them tick. Once you employ the candidate, invest time in training and educating them on what the business is about.”

And, when it comes to openings, these people are the experts. Laservision is all about creating an impact and wowing the audience.

"On opening nights you experience a wide variety of emotions, from terror or fear that the show will not run as planned to a feeling of ecstasy or joy at seeing all the hard work that has been put into creating the spectacular show pay off.

"Due to the highly visible, and time critical nature of our attractions, prior to every launch we complete multiple rehearsals and system checks to ensure 100% reliability and repeatability of the attraction. We also have redundancy measures in place ensure the show will continue should there be any unforeseen technical hitches.”

Laservision currently has projects in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Macau, Russia and Singapore. These range from a multimedia attraction for a major religious group in India to an installation in a high end shopping mall in Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympic games.

Looking forward, Shannon says Laservision plans to: "further develop our presence as the leading provider of multimedia attractions in South East Asia, grow and develop the Singapore office as our project hub, establish additional branch offices in Asia and keep enjoying being at the forefront of the entertainment industry and build a energetic and happy team”.

For more stories about 'The Singapore Story', click here 

To learn about the benefits of membership to AustCham, click here

To check out our coming events, click here

Tags:  Laservision  Making light work  Shannon Brooks  The Singapore Story 

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Spilling the Beans (With Alvaro Sanchez, Toby’s Estate)

Posted By Administration, Thursday, 20 February 2014

Can you tell us a little bit about Toby’s Estate and its beginnings?

We are purveyors and roasters of great specialty coffee in Australia and now in Singapore. We specialise in the wholesale supply of freshly roasted specialty coffee - as well as tea and chocolate. Toby Smith, founder of Toby’s Estate, began in 1998 roasting coffee from his mum’s garage in Sydney. Since then, the business has grown rapidly, thanks to an emphasis on freshness, sustainability and barista training.

How is Australian coffee perceived in the Singapore market?

Australian coffee brands are regarded highly in Singapore and throughout Asia. Many Singaporeans have studied in and/or travelled to Australia and are making efforts to recreate our rich and varied coffee culture in Singapore.

Australia, being a young country, is free of the cultural restrictions of other coffee-centric countries; hence, we are fast innovators and readily adapt and embrace new roast and brewing techniques, as long as the taste is a positive experience.

What are the main challenges for Singapore’s coffee market?

The main issues would be awareness of a fresher, higher quality product. The main coffee market is still dominated by the local brew and awareness of multinational chains. Having said that, more and more people are ‘graduating’ to fresh specialty Arabicas coffees. This is very encouraging.

At Toby’s Estate in Singapore, we have invested in a state-of-the-art roaster to maintain the same high standard of freshness and quality as we achieve in Australia. We avoid coffee that is more than a month old and all our wholesale accounts receive coffee that is no more than a week since roasted.

How do you market your coffee?

Our main marketing tool is our café on Rodyk Street (upstream from Robertson Quay, on the Singapore River), where people and future wholesale clients come for the ‘Toby’s experience’. Through it we share our knowledge and brews. We also conduct training every Wednesday to expose people to new coffee bean origins and flavours.

Tags:  Alvaro Sanchez  Spilling the Beans  The Singapore Story  Toby’s Estate 

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Wooing the Diners

Posted By Administration, Thursday, 20 February 2014

In June 2012, Wooloomooloo Steakhouse opened its doors in Singapore after more than eight years in Hong Kong, where it has branches in Lan Kwai Fong, Wan Chai, Tsim Sha Tsui East and its premium brand, Wooloomooloo Prime, in Tsim Sha Tsui.

According to Noel Emmanuel, Wooloomooloo Steakhouse’s General Manager, Wooloomooloo "offers a no-nonsense, back-to-basics menu, with all-time classics cooked to perfection using the freshest ingredients, in an atmosphere that is relaxing and professional”.

Given the success of this modern Australian steakhouse concept in Hong Kong, Singapore seemed a logical next stop for Wooloomooloo’s expansion, and there are plans now afoot to launch the business in other parts of Asia over the next five years.

"Singapore is not only the third richest country in Asia, there are also many aspects of this market that are similar to Hong Kong,” says Noel. "Other than having English as their official language, the two cities reflect each other in terms of their transparency in market economy, high spending power and both have proved to be amongst the world’s leading destinations for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions."

For Wooloomooloo, one of the drawcards for opening in Singapore – the food culture and wide variety of dining options – also poses an obvious challenge.

"From street vendors to fine dining restaurants, Singapore’s food scene is exciting, varietal and colourful. Although the market is receptive to a variety of cuisines, they are also spoilt for choices here. The main challenge is how to attract the attention of the consumers and sustain it afterwards,” says Noel.

In launching the business, Noel and his team took a ‘softly softly’ approach, rather than opt for a large scale marketing event.

"We understand clearly that there are bound to be problems to resolve and kinks to smooth out for any new business; hence, we did not have a big opening party. Instead we chose the ‘slow and steady’ approach, with an aim to provide a consistently enjoyable and memorable dining experience for all our guests.”

As for marketing this new business in Singapore, Noel is relying heavily on building a loyal customer base through ‘word of mouth’, whilst also publicising the opening through the usual media channels. It’s a formula that pays off provided a business maintains a high standard of product and service delivery.

People in Singapore are always looking for the next new thing, so maintaining brand loyalty in this highly competitive sector is vital for ongoing success, as Noel knows only too well.

"We’re getting the word out by not compromising on our quality of food and service. The best publicity channel is word of mouth. And, by making sure that only the finest of fresh ingredients make it to the table at our restaurants, whilst providing professional service in an intimate and welcoming atmosphere, we hope the customers will keep coming back.”

Tags:  The Singapore Story  Wooing the diners  Wooloomooloo 

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Entertaining Singapore

Posted By Administration, Thursday, 20 February 2014

Donna Benton,
CEO & Founder of the Entertainer

Australian entrepreneur, CEO and Founder of the Entertainer, Donna Benton, hit on the idea for her business back in 2001 in Dubai.

Donna recalls, "I was driving down Sheikh Zayed Road (the main highway in Dubai) and I noticed the huge number of restaurants but there was no incentive for people to take time out of their day and visit a restaurant they’ve never been to before – and this is how the idea for the Entertainer came to be.

Over the past 12 years, the Entertainer has grown from one voucher book to 27 in 23 destinations across 16 countries and has become an international brand. To this date, it remains true to the original offer format, which is always buy one get one free.

In 2012, private equity firm the Abraaj Group bought into the company so that the Entertainer for the company. "It was definitely one of the biggest milestones in our history. It’s what allowed us to move into markets such as Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, and carry out our eight year expansion plans within two years,” she says.could move forward with its global expansion plans. Donna explains the significance of this step

The Entertainer Asia, headquartered in Singapore, was launched at the beginning of 2013 with the introduction of the Entertainer Singapore. Donna describes the decision to bring the Entertainer to Singapore as an easy one.

"We had familiarity with the market and our partner company the Abraaj Group has a large base of operations there. As a business environment, Singapore is highly competitive but also transparent. It was a natural choice for us as our Asian hub,” says Donna.

Expanding its footprint in Asia, the Entertainer launched their Hong Kong & Malaysian editions in October this year. Plans to grow in Asia will continue in 2015, with more cities joining their ever-growing portfolio while increasing the number of merchant partners within existing locations.

Despite launching in so many different places around the world the product is essentially the same.

Donna explains, "We always offer buy one get one free offers for dining, leisure, attractions, activities, spas, fitness and hotel accommodation. Additionally our offers are always valid seven days a week, all year round, excluding public holidays. This is the key to our brand so we don’t alter the formula based on the market. The only thing that may differ would be the way we bring the product to market – we have two products that feature our offers – a printed book and a mobile product. For Singapore, because it is a very technically savvy environment, we market the mobile product more heavily”

Donna believes the key to the success of the business is keeping it simple. "The simplicity of our offer –and the quality of our brands is what sets us apart from other loyalty programs. There are no restrictions, and the offers are at quality brands such as Au petit Salut, Kinki, Carnivore, Hard Rock Café, Brewerkz, Marmalade Pantry (ION), Ben & Jerry’s, Spa Symphony, Gmax Reverse Bungy, Sky Fitness and hotels throughout Asia like Marriott, Angsana, Banyan Tree, Oberoi, and Conrad.”

With the launch of The Entertainer app in October, Singapore residents can now choose either the book or the app. The Singaporean edition currently offers 1,150 vouchers from 250 merchants valued at over S$150,000. In celebration of the launch of the app, the Entertainer is offering 40% off its normal price of S$95 for a limited time only.

As a business environment, Singapore is highly competitive but also transparent. It was a natural choice for us as our Asian hub

Donne Benton, The Entertainer

Tags:  Donna Benton  Entertaining Singapore  The Entertainer  The Singapore Story 

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