Discount Retailing at People’s Park

June 27th, 2007   •   19 comments   


Recently, my wife and I visited the Swanston Essential Store located at People’s Park Complex to pick up some toiletries. Apparently, it has been quite an institution for the denizens of the Chinatown area.

Anybody who need to purchase toiletries and cosmetic items will pop over now and then. They stock items like soap, shampoo, toothpaste, eye-liner and anything else which makes one prettier, better smelling, cleaner and germ-free. The success of the outlet has spawned a branch nearby at People’s Park Centre just across the road.
How has it survived for so long and remained competitive in the cut-throat retail scene in Singapore?

I believe here are some of its secrets.

1) Prominent shopfront.

Located at a corner shophouse in a high traffic area, Swanston has an advantage compared to less visible competitors. This is of primary importance. Yep, its back to location, location, location.

2) Access to cheap and convenient storage.

I noticed that the shop stores its products in a couple of shop units nearby. As these were located in an old HDB estate, rentals are subsidised compared to swanky shopping complexes in the CBD. Both factors make it more feasible to do a quick turnaround sales.

3) Everyday Low Price policy.

This is nothing new and many department stores are already doing it. However, Swanston appear to have honed it into an art and a science.

4) Unpretentiousness.

I like the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) approach that the store adopts in retailing. There are no fancy counters, sales girls dressed in uniforms, mood music or ambient lighting. Everything is upfront and fuss-free. Sometimes, consumers just want to make their transaction and leave without being harassed.


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  1. baabaanne
    posted on Jun 28, 2007 at 3:21 AM

    I want to travel to Singapore and buy something at Swanston. It looks like fun.

  2. posted on Jun 28, 2007 at 1:46 AM


    There are a few shops with similar concepts but a much smaller scale in Toa Payoh central. Competition there is higher but they all seem to enjoy good sales everyday.

  3. posted on Jun 28, 2007 at 2:21 AM

    Yes, I used to buy from the shop in Toa Payoh Central. Now that Parkway has one, I don’t have to travel so far. These shops are doing a roaring sales and good for consumers. 🙂

  4. Endoh Taiki
    posted on Jun 28, 2007 at 12:17 PM

    Looks like Watson though… haha.

  5. posted on Jun 28, 2007 at 8:40 AM


    Yep. Certain retail strategies always work and this is why discount shops are so popular. Unfortunately, the demise of the $1.99 shop shows that one can get over enthusiastic too when the product range isn’t clear.

    In this case, Swanston is about toiletries and cosmetics. Period. No kachang puteh, tupperwares or batteries. Focus is sometimes a virtue in retail, unless you have the wherewithal to compete against the warehouse box retailers like Carrefour, Walmart and Giant!

  6. posted on Jun 28, 2007 at 8:41 AM


    Yep. These shops do a roaring business indeed. I wonder though how much volume they need to make money, and this is why they need very efficient and low cost supply chains.

  7. posted on Jun 28, 2007 at 8:44 AM


    Come and visit us! However, service at such outlets are pretty perfunctory so don’t expect a memorable and delightful service encounter. 😉

  8. Anonymous
    posted on Jun 29, 2007 at 2:56 AM

    chanced upon your blog when searching for ‘rental at heeren”. i think your posts are really insightful=)! can you post up upcoming marketing seminars on your blog too?

  9. posted on Jun 29, 2007 at 9:02 AM

    fwah..i buy my toiletries and perfumes there man..good price and can makan there after shopping..wassup!! 😛

  10. posted on Jun 29, 2007 at 3:48 PM


    Hey yeah that’s a good observation. Maybe a more downmarket version of Watsons’s without the aircondition? 😉

  11. posted on Jun 29, 2007 at 3:49 PM


    Yeah dude. Chinatown is a great place to hang out isn’t it? I luuuvvv the foooodd tooo.

  12. posted on Jun 30, 2007 at 7:42 AM

    Oooooooo this is all-time female’s favourite store! Find all the make-up and cleansing products to make ourselves BEAUTIFUL!

  13. posted on Jun 30, 2007 at 11:24 PM


    Yes, most of their customers belong to the fairer gender. In this case, their products largely cater to repeat customers who need to quickly pick up and go. As such, no fancy layout or “experiential” corners.

  14. posted on Jul 02, 2007 at 10:11 AM u mention it ah..I feel like goin there for a kuay chap…mmmm….oh oh..and oso visit TigerFish’s website…oh man I would so love to try out the food one day..

  15. Ray
    posted on May 15, 2008 at 12:01 PM

    Hey i just happen to chance upon your blog. May i know what brand and model of camera do you use?

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  17. posted on Oct 29, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    Thank You a ton for writing such a wonderful piece of information. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking for, and I am glad to came here! Thanks for sharing the such information with us.

  18. Chloe
    posted on Apr 06, 2012 at 7:21 AM

    Hi, I’m pretty sure the second picture you took is from another store there called Ocean which has been there for around 20 years at people’s park. Perhaps you could credit it…

    On a side note, I have been a loyal customer as they sell more authentic goods rather than parallel imports Swanton does. They have a lot of brands that Swanston doesnt carry too! It’s worth a visit.

  19. Peerless
    posted on Jan 08, 2015 at 6:48 AM

    All of these articles have saved me a lot of heschdaea.

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