25 years of Parkson stores

The history of Parkson’s chain of department stores depicts 25 years of retail evolution.

DEPARTMENT stores – housing just about anything a consumer might want – were once viewed as bastions of retail convenience and efficiency. The changing times, however, have heralded a need for department stores to continuously evolve in view of new consumer needs.

Parkson is one such example of a department store that has been transformed over the years. The company’s different outlets have undergone an evolution that sees it moving forward into the 21st century with resilience. From the different brands it carries to the new services it now offers, Parkson has indeed kept up with its customers’ needs.

Parkson’s chief operating officer Raymond Teo comments: “The times and the consumer market are always changing. Since we first started years ago up till today, it is a totally different retail scene in comparison.”

Parkson’s outlets are currently found in retail complexes that make it immediately accessible to shoppers. This is in contrast to its past. As Teo explains: “Some of Parkson’s outlets were housed in shophouses back then, but today, those locations are no longer relevant. Big malls are the places where shoppers prefer to head to.”

The company’s history dates back to 1987, the year it was founded. Some of its first outlets were in locations like Atria Shopping Centre in Damansara Jaya, Selangor, and Sungei Wang Plaza in Kuala Lumpur. Today, Parkson is found nationwide with 38 stores in Malaysia to date.

They have also expanded internationally. The company opened its first overseas outlet in China in 1994 and has since expanded to 54 stores. In 2005, Parkson outlets were also established in Vietnam.

The company has also ventured into Indonesia with the opening of six stores under the name Centro Lifestyle Department Store, while similar ventures has been carried out in Sri Lanka with 17 stores under the name Odel.

Along the way, Parkson has won numerous accolades. Parkson Pavilion has won “The Overall Best Retail Outlet 2011/2012” as well as “Innovative Shopping Outlet (Department Store) 2008/2009”. Over the years, Parkson stores in Suria KLCC (2010/2011), Subang Parade (2007/2008) and One Utama, Petaling Jaya (2006/2007) have won “Best Department Store” (awarded by the Malaysian Retailers Association). Parkson has also been listed among the Top 10 brands in this year’s Malaysia’s Most Valuable Brands 2012.

The Parkson outlet in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur is considered the company’s flagship store. It is regarded as a world-class outlet that is immediately identifiable by its luxurious ambience, comprehensive services for shoppers and a good mix of global brands housed within.

Beauty products, clothing and accessories, as well as home and living merchandise, can all be found at Parkson. However, going beyond retail, within the four levels of Parkson’s Pavilion Kuala Lumpur outlet, shoppers can find additional facilities that set it apart from other department stores.

“The beauty spas and personal shopper areas are some examples of the extra services that our customers can look forward to in the Pavilion KL outlet,” says Teo, who gave Star2 a tour of Parkson Pavilion. “We also have the Zang Toi Cafe and A Cut Above Salon housed here, as well as different services like porters and security escorts for customers who need it.

“With other big names like Jusco and Isetan coming into the market, our company has chosen to resolutely evolve with the times to stay relevant to consumer needs,” explains Teo. “We have to be ahead of the competition so that we can establish ourselves to be in the leading position in the market. We don’t want to be considered as a follower of what the others are doing. Instead, we want to be the leader in all things new.”

In this aspect, Teo adds that Parkson constantly refreshes its selection of brands housed in its stores. New fashion brands are always brought in to replace less popular ones, in the company’s bid to keep up with trends. It has also expanded the range of products sold in its stores. New categories of products, like mobile devices and accessories, have been brought in, for example, to cater to the younger market.

“That’s how we evolve. For instance, we have a new store coming up in Nu Sentral Mall. Since that complex is angled more towards the younger market, likewise our outlet there will pander to the younger generation or the young-at-heart.

“We will be introducing a lot of new things in that store. Younger brands and categories of products, as well as free wi-fi service and mobile-charging stations.”

It was revealed that Parkson will be launching its multi-channel e-commerce site soon, too. With this, customers can shop online while at the same time have access to information about the stores.

“What Parkson has is a brick-and-mortar sales channel but that alone is no longer enough. Nowadays, our customers are going mobile, so we’ve got no choice but to embrace the new digital trend as well.”

For Parkson, it is all about embracing change to stay ahead. As seen in the past, the company is not afraid to make changes to their business.

Teo says: “Ten years ago, we had in-house fashion brands. However, as we found it hard to compete with the other brands that entered the market, we decided to discontinue all in-house brands. Instead, we now leverage on key partner brands to attract our customers.

“We used to have a supermarket too, but we have closed that down. We chose to stay focused on the department store model. We have decided to solely be generalists instead of specialists.

“Parkson is, after all, a one-stop centre. We offer varieties across all categories of goods sold – that is our strength.”

One thing has remained unchanged for Parkson: its striking black-and-yellow “Grand Sale” logo.

“The Grand Sale logo has been such a recognisable logo for Parkson. It is an icon by itself as it has stayed in our customers’ mind throughout all these years,” says Teo. “As such, no attempts were made to change it. Even though there were some proposals, in the end, we decided to keep it as it is. We are happy we kept the logo as it is as it has served us very well.”

This year marks 25 years since Parkson was founded. The company has planned a huge celebration to commemorate its illustrious growth. From offers and discounts to promotions, the department store is marking its steady success with grand gestures. There will be a 25th Anniversary Celebration Gala Dinner next Monday at The Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur, graced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“We’ve been on a very long journey. Our 25th anniversary is a milestone for us. Of course, it’s good to reflect on how we have evolved, but more importantly, we are focusing on how to move forward into the next 25 years. We want to continue being relevant in the future,” he concludes.

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