Courts Asia deal a step toward omnichannel

Retail giant Courts Asia is offering a competitive one-year service package for its customers who buy Apple’s iPhone7. The service deal not only covers accidental damage and data recovery, but guarantees a 50 per cent trade-in value.

This is just one of the moves by the department store to differentiate itself, and eventually transform into an omnichannel retailer.

Starting as a furniture retailer in the UK, Courts was established in Singapore in 1974. It opened its first store in Malaysia in 1987 and in 2014 entered Indonesia. It has more than 80 stores in Asia in multiple formats.

In the first quarter ended June 30, 47.8 per cent of its revenue came from electrical products, including major white goods, audio and small appliances. IT products, including computers, smartphones and cameras, made up 27.7 per cent of its sales while furniture accounted for 17.9 per cent.

Services, such as warranty sales and telecommunication subscription plans, accounted for the remaining 6.6 per cent of its revenue, which was S$196.3 million (US$144.3 million) for the quarter. The company’s last reported full-year revenue was S$770.4 million, with two-thirds (S$505 million) of that coming from Singapore.

Executive director/group CEO Terry O’Connor says Courts Asia customers may not be sure if they prefer the iPhone to alternative brands.

“Maybe they want to compare the iPhone with Samsung’s offerings, but at the same time they want a full customer experience in which an agent will show them how to use both phones and discuss the merits of both,” he says.

“An Apple store can do that for only Apple products … We want to be that player in the market that can do that for all major brands.”

Omni-channel offerings

Courts Singapore relaunched its online store in 2012 with 7000 product offerings, which has grown to more than 14,000 today. Both the online and physical stores are at the centre of Courts’ omni-channel retail offerings, which also include the deployment of tablets and digital kiosks on the shop floor, use of QR codes and “click-and-collect” counters in-store.

O’Connor says the Courts approach is to “outrange” and “outprice” its competition. “I think that’s what has kept us ahead of the pack. I’ve been here for 23 years and virtually none of the competitors I started with exist now. Many have changed hands, many have been subsumed in other organisations and others have gone out of business.”

He says Courts will “move with the speed and agility” of a pure-play online store. “At the same time, we want to develop our physical stores as experience centres.”
The retailer is looking at upgrading its stores with digital features to help shoppers go online and make it easy to shop.

“At the moment we have digital kiosks, but I wouldn’t say they are popular; they have become a bigger phenomenon in other markets,” says O’Connor. “I think in the future they will become more popular in the same way that people initially didn’t like to use digital checking counters at airports, but eventually got used to it.”

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