Examining the rise of online blogshops in Singapore

29 June, 2020

Photo: The Straits Times

Every year around the month of June, it is not uncommon to see large red banners hanging around shopping malls, plastered on store fronts, and even along roads, all proclaiming huge discounts and limited time offers. These tantalizing deals are part of the annual Great Singapore Sale (GSS), a paradisal event for avid Singaporean shoppers and a time of self-indulgence spanning more than two months. However, in June 2018, the GSS was reported to have experienced a loss in buzz and participation from retailers and shoppers alike. GSS was a lot quieter in 2018, and the 25-year-old event was said to have lost its lustre, facing competition from the emergence of suburban malls (such as City Square Mall and NEX) and online shopping. In 2019, GSS was renamed and repackaged as GSS: Experience Singapore, a shorter 5-week festival with pop-up stalls, film screenings and fashion shows, in a bid to adapt to Singapore’s evolving consumer landscapes.

‘Online Fashion Retailing and Retail Geography: the Blogshop Phenomenon in Singapore’ (Journal of Economic and Social Geography, 2015), by Associate Professor Godfrey Yeung (NUS Department of Geography) and Ms Ang Kim Leng, is a study testament to the rapid expansion of the local online apparel industry which has affected enthusiasm towards the GSS. The article examines the factors leading to the rise of blogshops in Singapore, namely due to a combination of low barriers to entry, the accessibility of technical platforms, informal institutions that bind the blogshop community and the development of a self-regulatory regime. It proceeds to detail how such blogshops achieve long-term sustainability, through the evolution of retail channels from online to brick-and-mortar shops, as well as the formation of personal and professional networks within related industries.

This study is important as current research on retail geography focuses on large established Anglo-American retailers which expand into online retail for further outreach, rather than online blogshops owned by individual entrepreneurs and which undertake a reverse development path from conventional retailers. Existing research on retail geography also excludes the agency of local (and individual) economic actors in identifying and developing business opportunities, which this research highlights as one of the crucial elements in running online blogshops in Singapore. Providing an extensive examination of the processes and interacting networks behind online blogshops, this study is extremely relevant in detailing the devolution of fashion authority as well as changing consumer patterns in Singapore today.

Read the full article here.