When being part of the change is more than just window shopping. Fionna Lee shares how she is working with retailers to be future-ready through the CapitaLand Graduate Development Programme.
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Tell us what retail therapy means to you.
I ❤ shopping whenever I can snag a good deal – discounts, promotions, rebates, you name it – whether it is The Great Singapore Sale, 11.11 or Black Friday, I’ll shop them all, offline and online. Knowing what you use to pay with is just as important. Where possible, I find myself using my American Express CapitaCard to multiply the earning of STAR$, the reward points of CapitaStar, CapitaLand’s cardless loyalty programme. There’s something about buying more and earning even more, that gets me going.
CapitaLand is shaping the future of retail, how does your role fit into this transformation?
I’m with the leasing department for Funan, one of CapitaLand’s newest shopping mall soon to open in 2019 and Singapore’s first online-and-offline (O&O) mall. As a trailblazer in the future of retail, Funan’s tenant mix complements the pilot technologies that will be used in the mall - wooing and securing these offline and online tenants are key responsibilities of mine.
Working alongside both offline and online retailers have led me to better understand their different needs. Traditionally offline tenants look to adopt new concepts with the help of technology, whereas online retailers are interested in setting up a physical presence. To secure these prospects, I have to be constantly resourceful from start to finish to meet their unique requirements.
"The in-store experience of the future is the ability of partnering retailers to deliver their brand stories into a single customer journey. I work with retailers deliver that vision to shoppers with the refreshing concepts that await at Funan."
What aspects of the future of retail are you looking forward to the most and why?
There is so much that I’m looking forward to, and here's my top 2:
The buzz around automated stores overseas recently became a reality in Singapore. The warm response by Singaporeans is extremely heartening as it shows that we as a country are supportive of new retail concepts and there is opportunity to continually expand and improve the industry. This validates what my team and I are working very hard on for Funan.
Retailers that I’ve spoken with are keen to collaborate, whether they are enabling technology in their operations or see the benefits in tying up with other brands to create novel concepts and enhance the shopping experience. A great example is a concept store at Plaza Singapura, which consists of a bank and a cafe, allowing visitors to spend quality time at the cafe while running errands at the bank.
"The biggest takeaway from my role is that if you don’t try, you’ll never know. Positive outcomes are often achieved from the most unassuming opportunities, which then flourish under the spirit to win."
Why the Graduate Development Programme? Can you share a special moment?
As a student studying both marketing and accounting majors then, I was looking to join a reputable company that provided the flexibility in the form of job rotations - CapitaLand’s Graduate Development Programme (GDP) was a natural fit. I’ve an affinity with malls (my shopaholic aunt has been a strong influence) and I was inspired by CapitaLand’s dominant retail presence.
I’ll never forget the day I joined the Funan team, when I visited Funan’s construction site for the first time. It was symbolic as it was meaningful because redevelopment works just started and I saw Funan in its foundational state. It got me all excited thinking about how I would be contributing to its development as it shapes Singapore’s retail scene.
"CapitaLand is forward-thinking, daring to launch industry firsts like NomadX. The company corporate venture arm C31 Ventures to invest in industry disruptors. I'm glad to be on this journey of change with the company."
Under CapitaLand's Graduate Development Programme, what qualities have you honed?
Resilience is vital is my line of work because my team and I are proposing forward-looking concepts while the mall is under development. To gain retailers' trust that their stores would be built to vision, I find myself continually engaging them, from when they were prospects, to when they sign the lease. With the relationships forged, I intend to see the tenants through even after the opening of the mall, to give them the confidence and assurance that they made the right choice in picking Funan.
The future of retail will need the buy-in of many stakeholders, how are you working with them and convincing them of this future? What challenges have you faced?
Negotiations with certain retailers can take longer than others. I see my role in the leasing department as helping those retailers get a better idea of the proposed concepts, using the Funan Showsuite as a platform. We also help guide CapitaLand management’s support of the new ideas, making sure they complement the mall.
Make a sales pitch. If you have to convince fresh graduates to join, what would you say to them?
As cliche as it sounds, if you’re looking to work for the best real estate company and working alongside talented individuals, CapitaLand should be your top choice. The work environment is healthy, I have grown professionally and also personally as I work alongside a strong team led by experienced mentors.
Year end is coming soon and it’s all about 🎁! What has been the most memorable present you’ve ever received and why?
As someone who hasn’t had her ears pierced, I collect clip-on earrings as good quality ones aren’t easy to find. I received them as a wedding present and was especially delighted that they came from Japan, where my favourite designs come from.
Was the Graduate Development Programme the best thing you’ve ‘bought’? How was it the dream purchase?
I see the programme as an opportunity gifted to me, and for that, I’m very thankful. I feel it’s my responsibility to make better use of the ‘present’ by finding meaning in what I do daily and taking it upon myself to make it fulfilling and enjoyable.
"It gets easier when I get to work with helpful, well-meaning colleagues, whom I regard as friends over time. We do spend most of our weekdays at work, so why not make the most out of it?" 😉