By Cheranka Mendis
Singer Worldwide said yesterday it is remains upbeat on Sri Lanka its single largest market and will expand presence further in the consumer finance market and introduce new lifestyle experiences.
In Sri Lanka to attend the biannual meeting of Singer Asia and Retail Holdings, the largest shareholder of Singer Worldwide, Retail Holdings Chairman and CEO Stephen Goodman yesterday told the Daily FT that even though Sri Lanka was not the largest country in which Singer operates, it was the company’s largest market with sales recording over US$ 100 million.
Buoyant about the future growth based on the 30% annual increase seen over the past years in Sri Lanka, Goodman said that the company was now looking at “new and exciting ideas” to further strengthen its presence in the country. Denying rumours of selling out, he assured that the company was committed to exploring new and possible opportunities in the country.
Having been expanding in the traditional way by opening new stores and adding new products, which the company will continue to do, it is now looking at introducing some new financial service products that are currently offered mainly to high-end consumers or ‘A’ level consumers.
“Through our subsidiary Singer Finance, of which we own 80%, we want to establish the same services to B+, B and C+ customers. We want to try and look at things that are mostly done in banks like personal loans and credit cards. We believe we are in a unique position to do some of that,” Goodman said.
“We are already in consumer finance and we offer consumer credit in our shops and conduct leasing and finance services,” he added.
The final decision on the matter will be taken during the meetings and if finalised, will be initiated next year. “The Sri Lankan market is ready for such products and we think we are somewhat uniquely positioned as a finance company and a company that has been in the credit business for 100 years to start this in the country.”
Commenting on creating new lifestyle experiences, Goodman assured that the company wanted consumers to “do more than just shopping”. Singer is currently working on a concept that would include normal products and new products in the range of consumer durables and something beyond which is not seen in Sri Lanka today. “It will be an integrated concept,” he asserted.
Speaking on Singer Sri Lanka’s performance, he noted that the company had done well over the years, especially after the end of the civil war. Growth has been recorded in both dollar and rupee terms even though this year the dollar growth has slowed down due to the depreciation of the currency. However, he noted: “We are quite satisfied with the results here.”
Comparing the performance of Singer Sri Lanka with that of its competitors, he noted that the former had grown substantially, more so than the latter.
“Sri Lanka is a small market and there is a limit to growth if you narrowly define it as just being consumer durables. We will then have to go to other areas, which is what we will do with the consumer finance and lifestyle experience concept,” Goodman said.
As for expanding the number of outlets, he commented that most would be in the north and east, which have been growing at a rapid pace. Having maintained a Singer outlet in the north throughout the war, Singer has become a heritage name there and increasing numbers are flocking to buy goods with the money sent by the Diaspora as well as with the new income being earned due to post-war development, he said.
“We are well established in Sri Lanka and committed to strengthening our presence in the market as we brace ourselves for future growth,” Goodman emphasised.