[Interview] Rajbir Singh Chopra, CEO of Weston Corporation
The past year has seen exciting growth for online and mobile commerce in Asia, and that trend looks set to continue all the way through 2012 into 2013. But the numbers, however phenomenal, hide the fact that many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers have struggled to incorporate online and mobile retail into their business.
We speak to Rajbir Singh Chopra, the CEO of Weston Corporation, probably Singapore’s most renowned sports apparel and merchandise company founded way back in 1948, about his business and the challenges of retailing online.
1. Over the years, Weston would have seen sports trends emerge and fade away. How do you decide which sports fashion trends to follow when it comes to curating the products?
Weston is one of the most renowned companies for the widest range of replica jerseys in Asia. We carry the biggest range from almost every soccer league in the world. Additionally, our range of soccer boots and gear are very impressive and affordable, attracting players like the weekend kickabouts father and sons to football professionals who want the best gear or even football fanatics who simply like to be decked out like their favorite players.
The fashion trends for football is simple – everyone wants what the players wear, whether it’s the team kits or type of boots that their favorite players puts on. In the soccer crazed environment that Singapore cultivates, football fashion has emerged from simply just getting a pair of traditional black boots to become a way to swear your allegiance to a certain team.
2. E-tailing has been traditionally difficult for brick-and-mortar companies. What has Weston’s experience been like in this area? What are the biggest issues and considerations?
E-tailing is generally more difficult for companies in Asia. Unlike the US, which is geographically vast and requires a certain amount of driving, Asia countries are smaller and these stores are present in every city. For example, lots of people in Singapore do not buy sports stuff online because there are retail stores everywhere and purchasing a particular product in-store might take only 20 minutes, inclusive of transport.
Additionally, many American consumers and European consumers hesitate buying from Asian sites because of the high volumes of counterfeit goods, especially for sporting goods. Lastly, e-tailing is new in this part of the world and consumers that are in the slightly older age bracket still prefer walking to a store to purchase.
However, as we are becoming increasingly digitally plugged in with our computers and mobile devices, we are optimistic this offline shopping mentality in Asia would soon evolve into a more multi-channel shopping mentality, especially with the younger demographic.
3. Weston recently integrated PayPal as a payment option for online purchases. What was the major pain point that Weston was trying to alleviate?
With PayPal integration, customers can enjoy a convenient and streamlined method of payment, even if the customers do not have a PayPal account. PayPal also helps us minimize transaction frauds for us and our customers.
It also makes business sense to integrate PayPal because it has a good international reputation and enables us to facilitate and expand our reach to markets beyond Singapore.
4. What would be the breakdown of their business now in terms of sales volume online vs offline? What would be an ideal ratio?
Our online sales numbers is still a fraction of our offline figures. With PayPal and the increasing trend among the younger demographic to go online for their shopping needs, we fully expect these numbers to grow substantially.
5. What other plans does Weston have to penetrate an even bigger market? Mobile marketing techniques, social media outreach, etc?
With a customer database of more than 1 million and 120,000 fans on Facebook, we are always constantly looking for new and innovate ways to expand the Weston brand name and penetrate beyond Singapore.
The focus for Weston would be to expand its reach and grow in the region, especially in the online space where we are competing on an international stage with other renowned brands.
Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.