The first BoConcept store in South East Asia opened in Singapore in November 2008. The store has already proven to be a big success, and BoConcept now plans further expansion in the region.
Yung Ong, the 29 year-old Singaporean Director of BoConcept Singapore, has been watching and following BoConcept for already about three years ago.
“We thought that it offered another kind of furniture compared to all the other firms in the sector. BoConcept had a special opportunity that we found interesting. They offered not only certain kinds of furniture like sofas or chairs. They gave their customers the chance to actually fill out an entire home. You can come to only one shop and find anything you need,” Yung Ong says. He is sitting in a Danish designed sofa in the new 7.000 square-feet store in downtown Singapore.
Yung Ong is basically responsibility for everything here. He looks after the general strategic direction of the company. He is actually a lawyer of education, only 29 years old, and has been a part of the Proof Living for five years.
In Singapore the Danish franchise store is a part of the Proof Living Company which specializes in selling furniture and quality brands for their customer’s homes. About a year ago they decided that it was time to move into a new market and that was when Danish BoConcept came in.
Difficulties persuading BoConcept
Proof Living had to kick BoConcept for a long time to get permission to start the store. First, when Yung Ong contacted the Danish head office they did not want a department in Singapore were not at all eager to get into a whole new market. BoConcept’s concept is not a very old, only about 10 years. So even though Yung Ong had his eyes at the company three or four years ago it was not until a year ago they finally decided that the concept was strong enough and developed enough to fit the Singaporean markets.
“We tried to contact them, first via email. In fact we had been emailing them for a couple of years without getting any response. I started calling them, but still no replies. Eventually I called them every day and it took two weeks before I got through. Then they told us that they were not looking at opening any new markets. The message was that the company had reached a certain state where they could not accommodate more regions. They wanted to pay more focus on their current stores,” the 29 year-old Director states.
But Yung Ong was still convinced though that it was the right thing for them, so they made a trip to Denmark to meet with BoConcept.
“We wanted to make clear to them that Singapore would be a no-brainer to them. We knew we had a market that would be opened to BoConcept. We believed in our selves and in the concept. After hearing our presentation in Denmark they finally decided to try Singapore,” Yung Ong says smiling.
Doing pretty good
The prices at BoConcept are mid-range compared to many other furniture stores in Singapore, and all the designs are Danish. Yung Ong explains that he thinks that Danish design has always been one of the more popular classifications of furniture products. Danish and Scandinavian designs have always been admired in this part of the world. First when they looked at a catalogue they were pretty sure, based on their experience they thought that the market in Singapore would definitely accept the Danish design.
But how are they doing and what effect has the world wide economical crisis had on the sale?
“We are doing well. I actually think we are fortunate to have opened in the middle of a financial crisis. It has definitely given our company a strong foundation. That is because originally we were only selling luxury, but today in BoConcept we have the opportunity to sell more kinds of products because of different kinds of needs from the customers. Some might cut down on more expensive investments, and our wide catalogue offers something for everybody,” Yung Ong states.
He explains that when they usually compare they store and their sales in Singapore with other BoConcept stores in for instance London, New York, or Tokyo, their hit rate there is actually much higher.
Lots of Scandinavian customers
BoConcept’s typically customer is, according to Yung Ong an international person who has probably travelled a lot before, maybe have seen BoConcept in another country. They are city people used to living in big cities and they usually live in apartments. They are design minded and they are looking for things to their homes that are a little more special.
Maybe it is because of the Danish designs, the strong brand, or the good furniture, but Scandinavians do frequently visit the store. Yung Ong evaluates:
“I think that anyone would be nationally patriotic and we can feel that a lot of especially Danish and Scandinavian customers come to us. They are proud of the fact that BoConcept comes from Denmark. The concept and the brand are strong and I think that Danes feel kind of at home when they are here. They feel comfortable supporting the concept. And of course Danes usually would like Danish designs.”
BoConcept doesn’t advertise to especially hit Danes or Scandinavians. They primarily target their marketing towards certain groups demographically but not in terms of culture or ethnicity.
Expansion plans on the table
Because BoConcept is a franchise the Singapore department reports directly to Denmark regarding how they are doing here and of course how the business is running. The Danes know exactly what is going on down in terms off marketing and promotions. They make a one-year calendar with the Danes, and every three months an operations manager comes to check with Yung Ong and his colleagues. And the Danish top of the franchise chain will soon have even more to focus on regarding to Singapore and South East Asia.
“It is our intention to make three or four BoConcept stores in Singapore and we are also looking towards other markets like Malaysia and Indonesia,” Yung Ong says, adding:
“Our plan right now is to open another store this year at Orchard Road and we already have the locations in the big shopping centre The Paragon.”
After that their next step will be to stabilise the businesses over the year, and then they have plans looking at another location, probably in 2011.
“We very much look forward to expand our businesses in Singapore,” Yung Ong states.