Sunday, December 20, 2009

Enjoy a drink or go shopping…at the post office

Tucked in the heart of Orchard Road, at its intersection with Killiney and Penang roads, is a new watering hole some have dubbed the kaypoh place.

The Hokkien slang term for ‘busybody’ is a pun on its initials, KPO.

The initials, in fact, still stand for Killiney Post Office, where you can buy stamps, send parcels and pay bills, among other transactions.

But more than half of the space was given in March to the pub, which has since become a popular place for many to congregate after work to talk, negotiate, share a tale and enjoy foot-tapping music over a drink or two.

SingPost is watching closely to assess how well the makeover of an outlet – to cater to a changing customer profile – can be replicated elsewhere.

The company owns 62 outlets, of which only three have been given a makeover so far.

If the results at Killiney are anything to go by, the mood is upbeat. Such has been the demand that post office customers must now take a queue number and wait, which is usually not the case at other outlets.

SingPost assistant manager Lim Soh Cheng said customer traffic between the post office and the pub – divided by a shutter that can be lowered in the evenings when the music gets loud – moves both ways.

Pub-goers stroll by to pick up last-minute gifts and check out some of the electronic gadgets on offer, while customers at the post office cross over for a drink or two.

Special displays highlight the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games (YOG) at this SingPost outlet.

Given the growing number of customers, it has been marked out as one of the few where YOG items will be sold.

While Killiney has proven to be a hip place, SingPost is hoping for more business at its Tanglin outlet this festive season as well.

Tanglin Post Office was the first to undergo a makeover, in August last year, when it was revamped to create space for financial service consultations and for gifts, with an eye to attracting its expat customers.

The post office’s space was leased by lifestyle company Friven & Co which brought in Swiss Butchery, Denise wine shop and other retail outlets and HSBC Bank to set up shop.

This Christmas, besides the uptick in gifts being posted to destinations beyond Asia, Christmas stockings on sale at the outlet have been moving fast, Tanglin’s branch manager Judy Tam told The Sunday Times.

SingPost carefully selected these two outlets to attract an upmarket, lifestyle-oriented expat clientele.

The idea of an image revamp began five years ago, Mr Loh Choo Beng, SingPost’s executive vice-president (retail and financial services), told The Sunday Times.

‘We wanted to stay relevant in a market where customer needs are evolving. We cannot look sleepy. We cannot look sloppy,’ he said.

Woodlands Post Office may be the next to be revamped, Mr Loh said, but he added that each branch needs to be carefully studied to see which customer category to target.

A case in point for SingPost has been Alexandra Post Office which was revamped in September last year,

As a result of the makeover, the post office now shares its vast premises with a childcare centre to cater to the needs of local and expatriate residents in the housing complexes that have come up in the area.

The spacious childcare centre now has 69 toddlers, from 18 months to six years, enrolled.

And the post office is busier with more expats and locals using its services – for example, remitting money for their maids.

Before the childcare centre opened, cab drivers were the ones who would often stop by to make use of its vast carpark while posting letters, The Sunday Times was told.

‘We are constantly looking for opportunities to optimise our assets,’ Mr Loh said, adding that the choice of the partner makes a crucial difference in enabling SingPost to engage a wider audience.

Like several other postal entities around the world, SingPost took a knock to its core business with the advent of the Internet and the entry of private sector players.

But now it has set itself the goal of becoming an organisation focused on providing ‘life cycle’ products and services all at one place.

Having expanded services by offering customers bill payment and passport service options, it believes there is much potential in selling gifts and providing financial services too.

Taking this approach further this Christmas, SingPost has brought out a special Christmas catalogue with offers on premium lifestyle products, such as a $2,618 Petit brand water dispenser from South Korea.


Killiney Post Office

Previously: The two-storey space used to be a postmaster’s house, which later became a storeroom.

Now: The new-look post office opened for business next to a cafe-pub in March this year.

Tanglin Post Office

Previously: The old building was a pre-war office that housed the then Ministry of Science and Technology till 1974.

Now: The current transformed outlet opened in August last year and shares space with a lifestyle shopping mall, a wine outlet and a furniture store.

Alexandra Post Office

Previously: One of the biggest post offices in the Republic, it had a huge delivery room where mail was sorted.

Now: The revamped outlet opened in September last year with a childcare centre within its spacious premises.

Source: Sunday Times, 20 Dec 2009

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