I bet that most people don’t think about Singapore as a creator of innovative franchise ideas but you would be surprised what you can find there when you look carefully. On my last trip I found six distinctive concepts that are gaining acceptance outside of their host country and making a mark in the Asia Pacific region as well as the Middle East. We will discuss 5 retail franchise concepts in this post and then later in the week give you a more in depth look at the biggest of the bunch – The BreadTalk Group. What is really surprising is that only two of the six are actually presenting the unique food culture that is Singapore.

I have been a customer of PRINTS in Hong Kong for a few years and did not realize it was started in Singapore as a collaboration of love of art and business between a Singapore businesswomen, Neny Suparman (family from Indonesia) and a Scandanavian designer, Lars Vikman. PRINTS is somewhat like the American concept, Papyrus, but more Scandanavian in style. There are 8 stores currently in Singapore and Hong Kong but the chain is growing and looking to add stores in both cities while expanding to Japan and parts of Europe. The stores are very popular and crowded especially with young women.

Neny and Lars make a great team and are extremely passionate about the concept they have created. I am sure they will be very successful as they take PRINTS to more countries.

Now what do you think of the idea of a Sushi concept developed by a Singaporean that is rapidly growing in Hong Kong, China and other parts of the Asia Pacific region? It seemed strange to me also as after all Sushi is a Japanese thing! But Sakae Sushi is meeting with success as it expands outside its home base and showing that you don’t have to be Japanese to develop a Japanese concept. The trick is to stay away from Japan!

Currently over 70 stores are operating in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines and China with more to come. I am sure that China is the best opportunity given the abundance of regional conveyor belt sushi chains throughout the country. The Mainland and Hong Kong Chinese seem to love it.

You don’t get more Singaporean than Ya Kun Kaya Toast. Kaya is a kind of coconut jam that Singaporeans love to spread on their toast and wash it down with a very strong and sweet coffee. I don’t care much for the coffee myself but I often buy a bottle of Kaya to take back with me to Hong Kong to use as a spread. This is really a locally acquired taste so it will be interesting to see if it catches on outside of Singapore. Currently the Company is operating under a franchise model in Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Philippines and Vietnam so their local partners must see the opportunity.

And now two non-food franchise concepts that are doing well as they expand aborad.

Page One is the leading book retailer in Singapore and offers enormous selection to a book hungry Asian consumer. Some of the busiest retail spots I have ever seen are book stores in Asia Pacific. The Page One Group began in Singapore in 1983 and now has shops in Beijing, Taipei, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and of course Singapore. The Company is focusing on its Mega-bookstore concept and and wants to become a cultural and contents exchange centre to its customers. I am a big fan and a regular customer of their stores in Hong Kong and Taipei and they always seem to have what I am looking for.

Finally, a word on a fashion retailer, Charles & Keith. Charles Wong and Keith Wong opened their first store at the Amara Shopping Center in Singapore in 1996. They have grown rapidly and are now in 23 countries with 160 locations offering their customers a wide range of shoes, bags, sunglasses and belts. They have over 50 locations in Japan alone with the partner, Aeon Group, which is really an accomplishment considering how quality conscious Japanese women are about accessories. The Group operates under a franchise model and controls all the manufacture of their products. The obvious combination of style, store ambiance and pricing are being well received all over the world!

So there you have it! Five Singapore franchise concepts that are enjoying success outside of their home country. I am sure there will be more to come!


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