Opening Address by Ms Low Yen Ling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry Of Education and Ministry of Trade and Industry) at The Singapore Institute of Retail Studies (Sirs) Industry Practitioner Seminar

Published Date: 28 November 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr Tan Tong Hai, Chairman, Board of Governors, Nanyang Polytechnic

Ms Jeanne Liew, Principal & CEO, Nanyang Polytechnic

Mr Goh Eng Koon, Head of Channels-ASEAN, Amazon Web Services

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. Good afternoon. It is indeed an occasion of double happiness today at the annual Industry Practitioner Seminar organised by the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies, or SIRS in short. Firstly, on behalf of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, allow me to extend my heartiest congratulations to Nanyang Polytechnic on your 25th anniversary this year. Secondly, we will witness SIRS’ entry into a strategic collaboration with yet another important industry leader, Amazon Web Services (AWS). I am delighted that SIRS and AWS have come together to help our retailers meet the challenges of a marketplace that is increasingly going digital.

An Increasingly Digitalised Retail Landscape

2. The retail sector forms an important part of Singapore's economy. It contributes close to 1.4% of our GDP and 3% of total employment. This sector, underpins the growth of our tourism and logistics industries, and enhances the quality of life for Singaporeans to live, work and play.

3. The retail sector has undergone many changes in recent years. We have seen the emergence of new digital technologies such as e-payment models, a growing e-commerce market, and burgeoning overseas market opportunities. With the pervasiveness of retail technologies, retailers can now develop new digital channels by building enterprise capabilities and infrastructure, and leverage technology to improve service and new concepts. Digitalisation has also prompted businesses to re-examine and re-design employee roles, deploy them more productively, and train workers with skills for today and the future.

4. At the same time, customers’ expectations of their shopping experience have continued to rise. Today, consumers are more sophisticated, tech-savvy and can shop offline or online. In this competitive landscape – not just in Singapore but also globally – the successful retailers will be those who can rise to the challenge, play to the “new rules” of the sector, and tailor their services to meet diverse customer needs.

Transforming the Retail Sector

5. To overcome these new challenges and leverage growth opportunities, retailers must adapt to the evolving landscape by innovating and upskilling their workers. As the theme of today’s seminar, “Beyond Digital: Humanising Your Customer Experience”, aptly suggests, simply being digitally savvy is not enough – the human touch is a key element that will help retailers rise above the ordinary. By combining both technological know-how and the human touch, the retail industry will be able to thrive.

6. Last year, SPRING launched the Retail Industry Transformation Map (ITM) as a blueprint to help our retailers sharpen their competitive edge. Some key areas of focus include improving operational efficiency, and redesigning and creating new jobs in emerging areas such as digital marketing. Through these efforts, we hope the retail sector will build up highly productive omni-channel retailers and develop a strong pipeline of local brand owners with global footprints, as well as a professional and skilled retail workforce.

7. As such, I am heartened by SIRS’s collaboration with AWS as it is well aligned to these objectives. Through AWS, retailers will have access to a full spectrum of cloud-enabled IT infrastructure services. Businesses, especially our SMEs, can pursue digitalisation without having to invest substantial time and upfront capital in IT infrastructure. To support retailers in their digital transformation, SIRS aims to train more than 1,000 PMETs annually across 500 companies to tap on what AWS has to offer.

Developing a Skilled Retail Workforce

8. Beyond this, SIRS has geared up the sector’s pool of digital skills with its wide range of training programmes. For example, SIRS runs the SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace programme and SkillsFuture Series for Digital Media. These courses cover emerging areas such as digital marketing, e-commerce and data analytics. The Institute has also developed a Professional Conversion Programme for Digital Professionals to facilitate the entry of mid-career professionals into the sector.

9. Besides training and manpower upgrades, we must also ensure that our smaller retailers who may require more help to cope with the changes, are not left behind. To support the SMEs, SIRS has collaborated with SSG, WSG, SPRING, IMDA and the Singapore Productivity Centre to build capability and transfer knowledge. We now have a pool of Digital Professionals and Consultants who can share their experience and knowledge, as well as create digital solutions together with companies. These cover a broad range of areas such as technology deployment, job redesign and reskilling of workers.

10. SIRS is well positioned to help retailers adapt to the changes brought about by digitalisation. Its ability to handle end-to-end transformation projects with their ecosystem of partners makes them the ideal bridge, enabler and aggregator of training and solutions for the retail sector. I strongly encourage retailers to take advantage of these initiatives.


11. Once again, congratulations to SIRS on this strategic partnership with AWS, and a happy 25th anniversary to NYP. I would like to wish NYP all the best – I am confident that it will be able to continue to develop a strong pipeline of graduates.

12. Thank you.

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