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Magazines Archives - 2011 August

Experiencing Kingsmen – A one-stop provider of total experiential retail solutions
Story 2 - Cover Story

Kingsmen, Asia’s leading one-stop experiential retail solutions provider, turns 35 this year and the dynamic group has exciting plans as it moves forward into the future — plans that will dovetail the growing retail industry in the Asia-Pacific and beyond. Yoki Wong explores the making of this marketing communication and design powerhouse.

Since its inception 35 years ago in Singapore, Kingsmen has been building on its foundation one project at a time, one store at a time, building a reputation as a “design-led and quality service-driven” operation that delivers.

Being an early mover in the industry has its advantages, giving the company time to garner experience and expand its operations. Today, it stands out as a marketing communication and design powerhouse with a network of 17 offices across the region and beyond. It is well equipped to offer truly integrated and experiential retail solutions to local, regional and global clients spanning mid- to upmarket segments of the retail industry.

In an exclusive interview with Retail Asia, Simon Ong, co-founder and group managing director of Kingsmen Creatives Ltd, declares: “We are now 35 and are able to offer our clients a more integrated suite of solutions covering a wider geographical footprint.”

One of the early advocates of professional design construction for the retail industry, Kingsmen started out at a time when the industry comprised mostly mom-and-pop shops. The business has grown in tandem with the industry. Today, Kingsmen is a multi-dimensional, multi-faceted group with businesses in exhibitions, events, museums and thematic activities as well as retail interiors.

Recent successful projects included installations at World Expo Shanghai 2010, China; the XIX Commonwealth Games in India; BMW — Mobility of the Future, Japan; the ArtScience Museum, Singapore; and the Khalifa Observatory Gallery, UAE.

The group’s multi-disciplinary expertise in retail events and exhibitions enables it to offer services beyond store interior fit-out.

Recently, Chanel, one of Kingsmen’s long-standing clients, assigned Kingsmen to set up a venue for a fashion show at Sands SkyPark, the talk-of-the-town venue atop Singapore’s iconic integrated resort Marina Bay Sands. It was the first event to be staged there and setting up an open-air catwalk with the skyline as a backdrop posed some challenges such as strong winds but Kingsmen, drawing on its extensive experience in building temporary structures for events in various locations, was up to the challenge.

Ong says Kingsmen collaborates with clients who are planning special events and other activities. “We scout for the ideal location, provide suggestions for themes and concepts if required; we design and build, produce and support the client all the way to the activation of an event.”

While continuing to build on its capabilities in retail interiors, the group’s offering in experiential retail solutions are designed to meet the needs of modern retailers and principals of international brands.

This total experiential retail solution is Kingsmen’s next level of serving and supporting its customers beyond the traditional store fit-out and involves channelling its expertise to creating environments and building temporary structures for events such as product launches, exhibitions, fashion shows, themes for special occasions and any activities that would enhance its clients’ business.

The retail industry itself has also undergone tremendous changes in recent years. Gone are the days when retailers would set up one store at a time. Today, many high-end retail brands are doing stand-alone stores and rolling out multiple stores not just within one market but across the region.

Another significant change in the industry is the rapid expansion of leading international brands across Asia. These upmarket retailers, who are facing stagnant or even shrinking mature home markets are accelerating their expansion in Asia. “We are talking between 200 and 5,000 stores in the next three years as hundreds of international brands, particularly from the West, continue to expand in China and the region.”

Ong estimates that some 80% of all top-end brands already have a presence in the region and the rest are on the way.

This expansion of high-end brands is reflected in one of Kingsmen’s recent projects — The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, the 800,000sqf luxury retail and dining space in Marina Bay Sands. Kingsmen designed and/or fabricated 40 stores in The Shoppes, featuring some of the world’s hottest luxe retail brands, including Burberry, Gucci, Tiffany & Co as well as flagship boutiques for Chanel, Fendi and Hublot.

Another emerging trend is the change in strategies of global brands. These brands are growing so fast in Asia that the principals want to have control over these markets and they are taking over from franchisees to catch the growth. Increasingly, global companies are setting up and managing their own outlets in Asia to ensure consistency in branding and positioning. These global brands are looking for companies that can meet their high standards.

Kingsmen, with its well-established network of offices across the region, is well placed to serve these fast-growing brands as it is able to provide a one-stop service for these retailers.

Commenting on the group’s extensive network, Alex Wee, managing director of Kingsmen Projects Pte Ltd, who heads Kingsmen’s retail interior division, points out that the company’s growing network of offices and support bases translate into savings and economies of scale for its clients.

“Our unique ‘one-stop’ shop concept provides clients the convenience of having a single point of contact for a complete range of services to meet their strategic marketing goals and needs. By having full-fledged facilities in almost every major city in the region, we ensure consistency in messaging, branding and quality standards for the execution of projects across geographical boundaries. Our holistic capabilities, combined with logistics infrastructure and support, ensures timely delivery and installation.”

Kingsmen’s local offices across the region enables customers to have local ground knowledge in areas such as legal, customs and tax matters as well as the assurance of after-sales service.

It is one of the most important aspects of Kingsmen’s assurance of service — by having a local team to take care of day-to-day issues such as fixing a broken glass window or a door that isn’t working properly. This extra service not only ensures that the stores look good every day but it also helps prolong or extend the retailer’s investment.

This service is backed by several fixture manufacturing facilities in the region, with the larger ones located in Johor Baru in Malaysia, Beijing (China), Delhi (India) and Taichung (Taiwan). With retailers today not looking at setting up just one store but potentially 50-500 stores over a few years, Kingsmen can provide value-added service by producing and managing advance stock orders for them.

In fact, most of Kingsmen’s offices have a workshop which functions as a mini factory with the capability to do assembly of parts, customisation and any other last-minute work.

The company does not view a project as merely fulfilling a job order but, instead, it is always about building a relationship with the client, and this philosophy has stood the test of time as some of Kingsmen’s clients have been with them for more than three decades and many are returning customers. Its long-standing customers include The Hour Glass and the FJ Benjamin Group.

“We build a relationship with our clients so that they can in turn focus on building relationships with their target customers,” explains Ong. “We want to engage with our customers just as our customers want to engage with their customers. If we don’t look at the perspective from our customers’ point of view, we will be in a very reactive mode — and we cannot serve them well.”

These strategic partnerships have produced some outstanding awardwinning projects, including Robinsons’ 116,000sqf store located at The Gardens in Mid Valley City Kuala Lumpur, which has received five awards since it opened, including the top prize in “the new or completely renovated speciality department store category at the ISP/VM+SD International Store Design Awards 2007 in New York, USA”.

Kingsmen itself scored a hat-trick, winning the prestigious The Interior Builders Award for three consecutive years (2003, 2006 and 2010). One of the Singapore Furniture Industry Awards’ most-coveted categories, “the award is presented to companies who have promoted innovation, creativity and excellence by translating interior designs into practical, effective and quality solutions”.

Many of Kingsmen’s international clients also use the company’ services and expertise in Europe and North America. The group has two representatives in North America: the first is located in Toronto to serve Canada and New York; and the second in Los Angeles to serve the western region.

Closer to home, Kingsmen is planning to set up more offices in the region, with its 18th location in Shenzhen, China.

The Kingsmen group has achieved much in 35 years but the best is yet to come, says Ong. “The next 35 years will be even more exciting for us as our second echelon management team is in place. They will be the key drivers of our expansion plans and reach in the region and beyond.

“Kingsmen is at the very heart of Asia, home to the world’s fastestgrowing economies. We are ready to ride into our next wave of growth.” ra

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2011 August Stories:

Mixed economic outlook for second half of 2011 Part 2: Asian retailers must brace themselvesfor stormy days ahead …

Experiencing Kingsmen – A one-stop provider of total experiential retail solutions

BroadcastAsia2011 and CommunicAsia2011 reaffirm status as industry launch pads

Malls in Asia

FLAsia 2011 brings together the region’s key players in franchising & licensing

Thaifex – World of Food Asia 2011 stirs the region into a deal-making frenzy

PSC eyes nationwide expansion by 2013

LG launches B2B solutions for retailers in India

Singapore’s NETS rolls out iNETS QuickPay for merchants

Global retail rentals rising

CRG buys Japan’s Ootoya and plans to open 1,000 stores in Thailand by 2016

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