The Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) organised its very first “meet-the-fans” session for its Facebook fans, a close to 80,000-strong base. The fans-only event was planned to help participants understand the importance of lifelong learning, and appreciate what training would do for individuals, employers and industries.

WDA Explore the Retail World Event at the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies

Held together with the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies (SIRS), the “Explore the Retail World” event gave participants a hands-on experience on the works behind the retail industry.

WDA Explore the Retail World Event at the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies

Mr. Kenneth Wong, Director of Corporate & Marketing Communications in WDA gave a welcome address to the participants who had signed up for the exclusive experience. Then, we divided into groups to take part in the retail consortium game – the highlight of the evening. For most of us, it was the first time we had met. That did not deter us from teaming up and taking part in a wide assortment of tasks together.

The crew had carefully thought up various tasks spread out across four rooms. Each room was rigged up to simulate a retail environment, such as a supermarket, a petrol station, a fashion boutique and a departmental store. In each room, the game master listed a series of 5 tasks that we had to complete in pairs. The team that completed the tasks in all four rooms using the shortest amount of time would win.

WDA Explore the Retail World Event at the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies

At the supermarket, we handled the point-of-sale system as cashiers, whose primary tasks include float count, cashing out purchases, taking note of discounts, bagging items and closing cash takings for the day. It’s not as simple as it sounds; for instance, cashiers must be able to handle and combine various modes of payment, including cash, discount cards, EZ-link cards, cheques, cash cards, and even calculate foreign currency exchanges!

WDA Explore the Retail World Event at the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies

The fashion boutique appealed to me most because it indeed resembled an actual boutique! There were display shelves and racks filled with neatly folded clothing, shoes and accessories. Even details like mannequins and ornamental decorations were taken care of.

WDA Explore the Retail World Event at the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies


Our tasks included merchandise display, dressing up mannequins, gift wrapping, and folding of apparels.

WDA Explore the Retail World Event at the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies

The petrol kiosk was modelled after a typical SPC petrol station. Very impressively, it was installed with replicas of petrol pumps, right down to the various types of gasoline and diesel.

WDA Explore the Retail World Event at the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies

Ever wondered what should be done when there’s a gas leak? Or the most optimal way to clean a car’s windscreen? We learned all of that here, and more.

Despicable Me minions

Minions! At the departmental store, we had to sell these, along with other items like clothing, fragrances and stationery to difficult customers, who may belong to the following types:

  • Mr. Hurry – impatient and always in a rush
  • Mrs. Worrisome – deeply concerned with product safety; tends to be naggy too
  • Miss Clumsy – may drop products, and loves new arrivals
  • Mrs. Thrifty – the mother of 3 that loves discounts and free samples
  • Mr. Wishy Washy – indecisive guy who loves to ask for opinions, though he may not be that easily convinced

WDA Explore the Retail World Event at the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies

We ended up having to persuade Mr. Wishy Washy to buy a $180 fragrance, who thankfully was decisive enough to do it. Success!

Of all the tasks, I found this to be the hardest as we had to face a customer and overcome his disagreement at some point. For many people in the retail industry, facing difficult customers is a day-to-day job and can obviously be quite stressful.


WDA Explore the Retail World Event at the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies

Guest speaker Ms. Nita Chauhan, the Training Manager at the Valiram Group, which manages brands such as Pedro, Charles & Keith, Michael Kors and Victoria’s Secret in Southeast Asia, gave a lively sharing session on the importance of training in the retail business, and how it results in happier customers. She practically lives and breathes retail, starting out from her family’s business before making a foray into larger retail stores including Marks & Spencer and Forever 21. For those looking for a success story of working in retail, she’s a great example.

Mr. Christopher Koh from WDA and Ms. Megan Ong from SIRS joined Ms. Chauhan for the panel discussion, where they took questions from participants. Many participants aspire to work in the retail world, and used the opportunity to have their questions answered.

WDA Explore the Retail World Event at the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies

At the end of the event, the winning team of the retail consortium game was announced, and each team member won $50 shopping vouchers – not bad for an evening of fun! All participants also received Victoria’s Secret goodie bags.

Victoria's Secret bags

After going through the engaging role-playing activities and interactive sharing session from the industry experts, I have new found respect and appreciation for people working in the retail world! Thanks to the good people at WDA and SIRS that made this informative and interactive event happen, which took three months of planning.

If you are keen to improve your skills in this fast-moving industry, check out the programmes offered by SIRS, as well as the Retail WSQ programme.